Starbucks adds a virtual barrista, sous vide eggs and a Tencent partnership to its menu

At the Starbucks Biennial Investor Conference today, the coffee and retail giant revealed some plans for 2017, including new foods comings to its cafes, and features heading to its incredibly popular mobile app.

Notably absent among its announcements were any media and entertainment-related plans.

In terms of its tech, Starbucks announced artificial intelligence-enabled features will soon be accessible in its popular, Starbucks Mobile App.

Dubbed My Starbucks Barrista, the new features will allow customers to place orders through a messaging interface, a.k.a. chatbot, or hands-free with a voice command through the app. My Starbucks Barrista will be available on the iOS platform first, and only to a limited number of beta users in early 2017.

The company also bragged about its mobile commerce achievements to-date.

Starbucks reports that it has 8 million mobile paying customers now, with 1 out of 3 using Mobile Order & Pay, a feature that lets them place an order with no need to bother a cashier.

The company’s success has extended to China. Starbucks reports that it is operating 2,500 stores, and opening one new store a day on average there, expecting its business in China to outpace the U.S. over time.

To elevate its sales there, Starbucks has formed a strategic partnership with Tencent that will allow “social gifting” via WeChat in China. The partnership will extend WeChat Pay to all Starbucks stores in mainland China in December.

Additionally, in a quest to double the sales of food in its stores by 2021, Starbucks announced forthcoming items it will add to its menus including organic soups, fresh salads, a gluten-free sandwich and sous vide “egg bites.”

The Sous Vide Egg Bites, which will debut at Starbucks cafes in January 2017, are cooked with a method that’s been trendy among sophisticated chefs and food fanatics. It involves placing ingredients like steak, fish or eggs, in an airtight bag and heating them in a water bath, or a kind of mini-sauna, at a consistent temperature.

Making the mainstream, fast food eater more aware of this cooking technique could stoke demand for sous vide home appliances.

Although, from an environmental standpoint, it’s sort of a shame to think that disposable bags would be required for cooking, and not just packaging, all the eggs Starbucks can sell.

We’ve reached out to Starbucks for more information about the sous vide technique they’ll be using in their kitchens.