Coca-Cola embraces controversial AI image generator with new “Y3000” flavor

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Promotional image for Coca-Cola Y3000

Coca Cola

Coca-Cola Y3000 Zero Sugar Coca-Cola has taken an obscure leap into the future of AI hype by releasing Coca-Cola Y3000 Zero Sugar, a “limited-edition” beverage allegedly co-created with artificial intelligence. Its futuristic name adds flavor to 3000 (still 977 years away), but its marketing relies on AI-generated images from 2023 — courtesy of the controversial image synthesis model Static Diffusion.

The technology called Stable Diffusion, named during the launch of the “Coca-Cola Y3000 AI Cam” mobile app, achieved and is capable of creating images by scraping billions of copyrighted works found on the Internet without the copyright-holder’s permission. Subject to copyright infringement lawsuits.

But there’s no hint of that contention in Coca-Cola’s marketing materials, which lean heavily into today’s tumultuous, AI-centric tech zeitgeist.

“We hope that Coca-Cola will be as relevant and refreshing in the year 3000 as it is today, so we challenged ourselves to imagine what the Coke of the future would taste like – and conceptualize what kind of experiences Coke would bring. From Future Unlock?” Ona Vlad, Coke’s senior director of global strategy, said in a press release.

AI-enhanced QR code provided by Coca-Cola.
enlarge / AI-enhanced QR code provided by Coca-Cola.

Coca Cola

To explore that hypothetical future, Coca-Cola developed a mystical flavor and wrapped it in an AI-themed marketing package and a mobile web-based app that drew on human designers and the aforementioned static diffusion. There is no direct reference to using AI to develop flavors beyond this one statement: “The perspectives of fans around the world, along with insights gathered from artificial intelligence, helped inspire Coca-Cola to create the unique flavor of Y3000.”

Not being an AI mixologist is probably a good thing because AI is known for creating questionable recipes. No one needs toxic ingredients accidentally mixed into their soda recipe. (Will Coca-Cola feed its vaulted top-secret recipe through a commercial cloud AI model like ChatGPT?)

While the AI ​​flavors aren’t included, the company talks about using AI to develop Y3000’s graphical branding: “Coca-Cola Y3000 Zero Sugar is an equally futuristic—and optimistic—visual identity. Co-created with artificial intelligence, the design shows fluid morphing, in an evolving state, Communicated through form and color changes that emphasize a positive future.”

Graphic design is not the only place in which static diffusion plays a role in the Y3000 marketing package. On its website, Coca-Cola provides an AI-enhanced QR code (possibly generated by the recently discovered static diffusion technique). When scanned on a mobile phone, the code takes thirsty users to a “Coca-Cola Creations Hub,” where they can snap a photo with their device’s camera and filter it through static diffusion to give it a vaporwave-style futuristic look.

As it stands today, the term “artificial intelligence” is a technical term of art, though it is also sometimes misunderstood and misused. Now that it has become a marketing term for a multinational food and beverage company, the trend of watering down the meaning of AI is likely to continue.

Coca-Cola mentions that the Y3000 AI cam is powered by static diffusion on their website.
enlarge / Coca-Cola mentions that the Y3000 AI cam is powered by static diffusion on their website.

Benj Edwards

Coca-Cola says the zero-sugar version of the new AI-enhanced soda will be available for a limited time in “select markets,” including the United States, Canada, China, Europe and Africa. Thirsty futurists in the US, Canada and Mexico will soon be able to purchase the “original flavor version” of Coca-Cola Y3000.

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