I have experienced Target's answer to the age-old problem of children flinging themselves off shopping carts, grabbing sugar cereal, hitting siblings, and whining that YOU SAID IT WOULD ONLY TAKE A MINUTE.
Target is in the midst of some very interesting technology experiments aimed at enhancing store experience—starting with keeping children of the digital age entertained and occupied while Mommy and Daddy shop.
The Minneapolis-based retailer teamed up with Google to turn its stores into a virtual winter wonderland using Google's 3D-sensing Project Tango tablets, which are not yet available for purchase. Similar in size to an iPad Mini, the Tango tablet is programmed to react to the Target store environment, using a series of cameras. Point it one way, and giant animanted candy canes appear on screen. Get closer to the gift wrap endcap, and cartoon deer appear. Press buttons to hurl snowballs at them. It's easy to use—probably even easier for pint size guests than their harried handlers, and there's really no way to mess up the seamless, 10 minute experience.
In its current form, Tango doesn't interact with store merchandise, but it's easy to see what the near future of store shopping could look like—imagine pointing your smartphone at an item and having product information appear. Or a coupon code. Or Nate Berkus, offering design tips.
Target is testing Project Tango at the Roseville store this weekend, Thursday December 11 to Sunday, December 14, 11 a.m to 7 p.m. There are just 15 tablets that can be checked out at the store entrance. If one is not available, shoppers will be given a pager and notified when it's their turn.
But Tango isn't the only way to play with Target this month. Bullseye's Playground launched last week. Visit target.com/play on any mobile device to try out six interactive games including sledding, ice fishing, and snowball fights. You don't have to be at Target to play, but in all Target stores, you'll find signs that prompt players to use special codes that unlock characters and new game levels. For every game played, Target will donate $1 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital—up to $1 million.
Just know that you'll have to wrestle your phone back from the kids before checkout to use your Cartwheel.