Rite Aid 3D Reward Center

It looks a little like something out of Star Wars – except instead of seeing a hologram of Princess Leia, you might see a can of Coke spinning around above your head. And instead of being projected out of R2-D2, it’s coming from a Rite Aid kiosk.

Oh, and R2-D2 also prints coupons!

If only the real Star Wars were this exciting.

But this isn’t science fiction, it’s Rite Aid’s latest innovation. A year and a half after launching a test in a handful of locations, the drug store chain is rolling out its “3D Reward Center” to hundreds more stores and, eventually, to a store near you.

The kiosks are similar to CVS’s “magic coupon machines”, which are located inside the store and print coupons if you scan your ExtraCare loyalty card. But CVS recently complained that few people seem to be using its machines (read: “CVS Wants to Know Why You’re Not Using Its Coupons”). So Rite Aid tricked up its version. The Rite Aid machines print coupons, too. But they also feature a 3D holographic display, to project videos of products and promotions that can be seen above the kiosk, without the need for 3D glasses. “Customers are drawn to the display and Rewards Center to get a closer look at the advertised products that are literally popping out from the screen,” the Intel Corporation says in a description of the product it helped to develop alongside Provision Interactive Technologies.

Once you find yourself drawn to that image of a product spinning in space, the kiosk also has a more traditional 2D touchscreen display that allows you to load digital coupons onto your wellness+ loyalty card. And brands will be able to “engage viewers via the interactive touch screen interface.” In other words, you may be asked if you want to watch a product’s 3D video, then the machine might print out a coupon as a reward for watching – similar to Rite Aid’s current 2D Video Values offers.

Provision has announced that it will now begin installing the machines in 200 Rite Aid stores in New York and Los Angeles, followed by a “phased rollout” to additional stores. Ten stores in New York and L.A. were selected as test sites in early 2012. Shoppers who tried out the machines reported some issues with the coupons they were given – some were expired, or close to it, and other Rite Aids that weren’t familiar with the 3D Reward Center coupons wouldn’t accept them. Presumably, one hopes, the issues have been ironed out as the wider rollout begins.

Of course, it just wouldn’t be new technology if there weren’t something about it that’s just a little creepy. “The 3D Reward Center performs anonymous video analytics used to determine the age and gender of customers standing in front of it,” Intel explains. “As a result, the system can play content and advertising suitable for the audience, while offering coupons for items of interest – there’s no point telling a teenager about a promotion for reading glasses!” So if you want coupons for products other than what the machine thinks you want, better bring some wigs and disguises.

The “intelligent” machine is also able to provide “customer tracking data”, user demographics, “as well as other information,” Intel adds ominously.

Kind of makes CVS’s magic coupon machine seem a lot less magic. And for some, that might not be such a bad thing.

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