New Mall of America bot tells you how to shop... kinda


Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the options at the Mall of America? While the official app for the mega-mall has pretty dismal reviews, now there are other -- pretty mediocre -- ways to make the most of your experience via tech.

E.L.F. (Experiential List Formulator) is a bot that can be downloaded onto your phone or used online for suggestions of how to spend your time at the Mall, be it for a few hours or over several days. Created by IBM, the AI service is part of a pilot program, so you may be seeing shoppers using more bots soon.

So, how does it work? Right now, not that great.

Part of that issue might come from the limited criteria that users are asked to give. Once a session has started, the program asks a few simple questions, including whether you're an adult or child, the amount of time you have at the Mall, and what you're looking for, be it eating, shopping, or sightseeing (yes, sightseeing is apparently a thing in the Mall of America).

So far suggestions tend to be lackluster. One search for "adult," "a few hours," "shopping," and "women's fashion" yielded suggestions to try Caribou Coffee, purchase a $250 shopping promo, and to visit Kate Spade and Michael Kors. Put the criteria in twice, and you get the same results. Swap out "adults" for "children" in that equation and you get a lot of recommendations involving coupons. A search for "eating" yielded a photo op with a Nutcracker. 

So, there might be a little more work needed. But hey, it is a pilot app. And it's free. 

If you want to give it a whirl, E.L.F. can be found via chatting with Mall of America's FB instant messenger and you can also use this website. Or download the app for Android or iPhone.