March 27, 2013, 5:40 PM

A corporate mascot comes to life on smartphones and tablets

Chuck E. Cheese’s unveils an augmented reality mobile app.

Lead Photo

A restaurant customer through augmented reality poses with the mouse Chuck E. Cheese.

Kid-oriented restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese’s is letting customers interact with the chain’s eponymous animated mouse through a new augmented reality mobile app available for free at Apple Inc.’s App Store and the Google Play app store for Android devices.

The first time the “Say Cheese Here” app is opened, it displays brief, step-by-step instructions on how to use the app. A customer in a restaurant looks for pink, orange and blue “Say Cheese Here” signs that serve as in-store hotspots on tabletops, the sides of arcade games and backdrops throughout every Chuck E. Cheese’s location. The customer then activates the app’s augmented reality camera view.

With the app open, guests click on “See Chuck E.” and point their phone or tablet’s camera at one of the markers to start Chuck E.’s animated performance onscreen. By tapping the camera icon in the app, customers can take and save as many photos as they wish. As the mouse displays his three rock star moves, customers can tap the pause button at any time to take a picture with Chuck E. in a particular pose.

Animations are started on a consumer’s phone when she gets within a short distance from the “See Chuck E.” signs, which are embedded with location sensors.

“The app does not require any GPS-based functionalities,” a company spokeswoman says. “The device’s camera picks up sensors from the markers placed around store locations. The sensors in the markers communicate back to the device to begin the animation within the open app. Chuck E. Cheese’s installed these markers in all of its locations specifically to communicate with the open app.”

The app also incorporates sharing functionality to easily post the snapshots to Facebook and Twitter or send them to friends and family members through e-mail. Customers can submit their photos to ChuckECheese.com through the app for a chance to see it on the Chuck E. Cheese’s web site and official Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages.

“What differentiates Chuck E. Cheese’s from other family entertainment options is interaction with Chuck E. himself. Since launching our contemporized mascot last summer, we’ve been committed to increasing the breadth of that interaction for families. Augmented reality is perfect for that,” says Scott McDaniel, chief marketing officer of CEC Entertainment Inc., Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company. “We know our guests are very mobile, and from their feedback we also know they love sharing their memories and photos with their families, friends and even with us. By tapping into augmented reality technology we’ve created a completely unique experience that brings parents and kids into a Chuck E. performance like never before.”

The app was built with advertising agency The Richards Group, augmented reality vendor Total Immersion, and computer graphics and animation firm Reel FX. Chuck E. Cheese’s and its vendors declined to reveal the cost of the app and the location sensors for the signs in restaurants.

Chuck E. Cheese’s is promoting the app in TV and web ads and through its social media pages. It will measure success by how social the app becomes, a company spokeswoman says.

“Unlike traditional communications programs, Chuck E. Cheese’s social marketing strategy is predicated on two-way dialogue between the company and its customers,” she says. “We would measure the success of the app through photo shares and feedback we receive from our families and guests. Additionally, we are monitoring the number of app downloads and shares to Chuck E. Cheese’s web site and social media properties.”

The company and its franchisees operate 562 Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants located in 48 states and eight foreign countries.

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