Starbucks has a new barista—and it’s a virtual assistant.
On Monday, Starbucks launched a new feature for its iOS app that lets certain customers place their orders ahead of time via a voice-controlled bot. My Starbucks Barista uses artificial intelligence and a messaging interface so that customers can place their order using natural-language voice commands or text.
The feature is currently in beta and will roll out initially to 1,000 iOS users. The company plans to expand My Starbucks Barista nationwide throughout this upcoming summer, and the feature will also be coming to Android soon.
“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” Starbucks’ CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger said in a statement.
The launch video shows a customer putting an order for a “double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and splash of cream in a grande cup.” It seems that the virtual barista is able to match key words to items on the Starbucks menu while including customization requests as additional information for the actual baristas who will be prepping the order. The customer is asked to confirm the order and given time frame for pickup.
In addition, Starbucks unveiled its Starbucks Reorder Skill for Amazon’s Alexa platform. This gives customers with Alexa-powered devices (like Amazon’s Echo line) the ability to reorder their favorite Starbucks items using voice commands. After Echo owners enable the Starbucks skill, they can simply say “Alexa, order my Starbucks.”
“These initial releases are easy to use providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats,” Martin-Flickinger added.
Why this matters: Virtual assistants are—whether in mobile devices or in smart home speakers—becoming smarter, more useful, and increasingly popular. And Starbucks has always been on top of emerging trends by adopting mobile payments and ordering ahead in their apps. It’d be interesting to see if after this beta test, Starbucks might bring these capabilities as a third-party developer for Siri.