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Artificially sweetened, artificially made: Coca-Cola’s AI-generated soda flavour is a flop

With a twist, Coca-Cola has thrown its hat into the cola wars, introducing a new flavor developed in collaboration with artificial intelligence. As reported by CNBC, this unique beverage, referred to as the “soda from the future,” is available for a limited time in both regular and zero-sugar variants.

Known as Y3000, the name certainly carries a futuristic ring, although it may evoke thoughts of Skynet and its malevolent Terminators rather than a refreshing drink. While Coca-Cola hasn’t provided details about its taste, early testers have likened it to a raspberry slushy.

The creative process behind Y3000 is where AI shines. It all began with researchers collecting flavor preferences from consumers, seeking out trends to gain insight into what the “future tastes like.” This data was then fed into a proprietary artificial intelligence system to help shape the flavor profile, giving birth to this innovative soda.

In a move reminiscent of Marvel’s Secret Invasion, Coca-Cola also enlisted AI to design the artwork on the slim cans. The cans feature a beachy, neon-purple aesthetic that strongly resembles images generated by AI platforms like Dall-E or Midjourney. Besides the small cans, there are traditionally sized-bottles filled with this futuristic beverage.

Although described as a limited edition flavor, Coca-Cola hasn’t revealed when Y3000 might disappear into obscurity, akin to other futuristic foods such as Dippin’ Dots freeze-dried ice cream and the transparent (and not-so-great) Crystal Pepsi.

However, it’s expected to be available till the end of fall, and Coca-Cola has further plans for this AI-inspired venture. The company has partnered with luxury streetwear brand Ambush to release a Y3000-themed clothing collection later in the season.

In today’s marketing landscape, launching a new soda flavor isn’t sufficient; Coca-Cola is also promoting its Y3000 augmented reality experience. By scanning the QR code on the soda bottle, consumers can access a web app that uses photos taken by users to generate an augmented-reality glimpse into the year 3000.

The result is glossy, albeit somewhat stereotypical, images akin to those generated by various AI image platforms. These snapshots include a hyperrealistic vision of a utopian city (based on a photo of New York) and a portrait of colorful trinkets (based on a picture of an office desk).

However, the new limited edition of Coca-Cola hasn’t landed that well. Kyle Barr of Gizmodo says, “My expectations were low, but Coca-Cola bottomed me out. Should we have suspected any less? AI is notoriously terrible at coming up with recipes, whether that’s alcoholic cocktails or money-saving meals that won’t outright kill you. Chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard don’t know their recipes’ outcomes. They know what ingredients have sat alongside each other in the past, so it aggregates what may work well together.”

“Its flavor reminds me of when you mix all the drinks at a soda fountain. It’s artificially fruity, like a gummy bear or a lollipop. The aftertaste is more of a caramel, vanilla flavor,” said Haley Tenore of Insider.

“I was surprised the drink poured out with the traditional cola color because it tasted like all the red soda flavors got together and threw a party. Cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and generic ‘fruit punch’ were the tastes I sensed most. I’m not a big fan of the taste of energy drinks, but the Y3000 did remind me of those,” said a Reddit user.

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