If you've ever visited a trendy food truck or hipster nail salon, you know that tablets seem to be taking over everywhere. Seriously: Everywhere.
The NFL's recent contract with Microsoft supplied players and coaches with specially-designed Surface tablets. These tablets are built with a protective casing, so they can be dropped, tackled, blitzed or drenched in sweat. Coaches are using this technology to replace the traditional playbook.
Tablets have increasingly made their way to the battlefield in recent years, providing soldiers with a more efficient means of receiving orders, mapping locations, collecting data. Software designers are following suit with cool applications that can adapt commercial tablets into jam-proof, spoof-proof mobile machines.
More than 1,600 U.S. bars, including Teasers in Chicago and JT's Pub and Grill in San Diego, have turned to Buzztime to cater to tech-savvy patrons. Buzztime uses Samsung Galaxy tablets stationed at individual tables to offer a variety of bar games, including karaoke and poker.
The Maryland-based Gorman Farm was one of the first small farms to incorporate tablets into a regular business strategy, ringing up produce sales at its produce stand using the mobile devices.
Meanwhile, at the Thirsty Bear pub (and an increasing number of drinkeries worldwide) patrons are placing orders using self-serve tablets from Bouncepad. Also at the Thirsty Bear: An iPad jukebox.
By issuing tablets to their passengers, Royal Caribbean offers access to an app that supplies information about the ship, scheduled activities and excursions. It may not prevent motion sickness, but it does shorten the lines at the concierge desk.
Employees at the department store chain Belk carry tablets to access customer purchases and make sales. But even that kind of tech is looking old hat compared with youth-friendly brands such as Tommy Hilfiger; its flagship store in Dusseldorf, Germany, recently installed Bouncepad iPad kiosks in dressing rooms, allowing shoppers to share looks and get opinions from friends.
Hotels around the world, such as the Four Seasons, are turning to the Concierge Interactive tablet app, allowing guests to check reservations, get directions or check into flights. So guests can have their questions answered ... without having to tip anybody.
By stationing Ziosk tablets at their tables, Olive Garden waiters have been able to streamline ordering and check processing. According to Orlando Sentinel, all 845 Olive Garden locations are using this technology. Chili's and Applebee's have announced that they're using a similar approach.
Parents of young kids know that the next generation just doesn't worship TVs the way their grandparents did. Instead, it's all about watching movies on tablets, which are slowly replacing even home laptops when it comes to video streaming. In fact, only about 15 percent of tablet owners take their devices on the go, reserving them solely for at-home video streaming or reading.
Software developer Incentient is helping to turn tablets into sommeliers. Its SmartCellar tablet app lets sippers browse a wine menu, learn about grape varieties and growers, and even see photos of the vineyard where their wine came from.
Retailers such as Sephora have begun equipping their sales force with tablets. Now customers can browse colors, sort through brands, and even try on looks virtually via makeup apps from L'Oreal and other brands. Other in-store tablets at Sephora can help shoppers choose manicure styles or nail art.
Old-fashioned photo booths are giving way to Boothify, an interactive tablet-based experience that allows users to take and display photos via social media.