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Starbucks' augmented reality app gets all lovey dovey

Starbucks expands the usefulness--if you can call it that--of its augmented-reality app beyond the holidays to Valentine's Day.

The updated app lets you play around with the hearts on the cup.
The updated app lets you play around with the hearts on the cup.

Starbucks is giving its augmented reality mobile app a little bit more love. Literally.

As part of a new update, users of the company's Cup Magic app can now point their phones at Starbucks Valentine's Day-themed cups to see new, love-themed effects that appear to be happening on the cup itself.

Starbucks originally launched its Magic Cup app last November on both iOS (iTunes) and Android (Market) to coincide with the coffee chain's annual run of holiday-themed cups. Users would point their smartphone's camera at one of the seasonal cups and it would pull up an augmented reality scene that matched up with whatever character was on the cup.

This new addition is a little more limited, with the company only using one type of cup that will be carried in its stores through February 16.

Besides looking neat, there is--of course--a business hook to get you to buy more than a cup of something for yourself. The app lets users buy and send digital Starbucks gift cards to friends that can be delivered on Valentine's Day, as well as providing a way to send messages that require the recipient actually head to a Starbucks, buy a beverage, and aim it at one of the limited cups to see what was written.

Starbucks is just one of a handful of food and beverage companies to develop their own augmented reality applications. It's joined by burger joint The Krystal Co., which last year put out an app to let customers see its penguin mascot dancing on cups and boxes. There's also the more useful implementation by Dominos, which recently put up billboards in the U.K. that let customers view and order pizza from an augmented reality menu using their phones.

Here's a demo of what it does, followed by the original holiday version: