Starbucks Augmented Reality App Animates Holiday Cups

Here is the latest example of augmented reality, reported on We considered examples of augmented reality, like the talking newspaper, earlier in the semester.

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Starbucks is launching its first major augmented reality app this holiday season that will let customers animate their coffee cups with their smartphones.

Starbucks Cup Magic launches for iPhone and Android devices in the U.S. next Tuesday. (In Canada, just the iPhone version will launch.) As demonstrated in the video above, the app works by pointing your phone’s camera at the company’s red holiday season coffee cups and 47 additional objects, such as bags of coffee, on display at Starbucks retail locations.

Doing so will produce animations involving five characters — an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and a dog sledding and a fox — on your screen. You can also interact with the characters. For instance, if you tap the boy on the sled he does a somersault. Those who activate all five characters can qualify to win an as-yet-unnamed prize.

The app also includes traditional and social sharing capabilities. You can the send ecards as well as holiday offers from Starbucks, among other things.

The object, says Alexandra Wheeler, vp-global digital marketing for Starbucks, is to “surprise and delight” customers during the holiday season.

Although Starbucks experimented with an AR app years ago in an ad, Wheeler says this is the first major AR push by the company. The effort follows some other recent AR programs from marketers including an app from Nivea featuring Rihanna and an Amazon app that lets you point your phone at objects and then buy them.

Cup Magic, created by Blast Radius, caps off a year of successful mobile implementations by Starbucks. The brand launched a mobile payment app in January that has been used in more than 20 million transactions and a QR code program designed, like Starbucks Cup Magic, to enhance the in-store brand experience.

Starbucks Augmented Reality App Animates Holida…, posted with vodpod

How do we “surprise and delight” customers without smartphones? Is this an example of a growing “digital divide”?

4 thoughts on “Starbucks Augmented Reality App Animates Holiday Cups

    • Is the objective to showcase examples of the work so as to promote its adoption? We in the academy are trying to analyze and teach about these technologies and their social impact. The folks at Cyborgology are much further along in this analysis than I. Currently, my work is mainly with undergraduates.

      What might you want them to know to help further their careers?

      • Richard

        Thanks for the note. My only agenda here is to open peoples minds to creative media possibilities–that is all.

        This is a great opportunity for professionals and students alike to learn, get exposure and connect with other Media professionals and academics. There is no economic gain here for me or any of the participants. This is all about mental stimulation, community and conversation.

        If you or anyone you know would find this interesting, email me at This will be a lot of fun, if nothing else and all are welcome!


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