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This is kind of goofy, but kind of cool. Starbucks just unveiled a new mobile application for the iPhone that essentially turns the iconic red holiday coffee cup into a virtual world where you can watch holiday characters like a squirrel light up or a skater perform tricks.

It’s part of the coffee retailer’s attempt to bring a little magic into the holiday season, using augmented reality to enhance how patrons interact with the brand.

I downloaded the free app and gave it a try this morning with an old Starbucks coffee cup that I dug out of the trash. My goal was to frame the scarf-wearing fox and partridge on the cup within the app.

Unfortunately, my first attempts didn’t work, even though I was repeatedly given clues to hold the phone steady or try it out in a well lit environment.

My coffee cup this morning with an interactive fox dancing under snow flakes

I did both, and still nothing. It wasn’t until I went back to the app and read that one needed to frame both the fox and the partridge that the merriment occurred.

Snow flakes fell across the screen and the fox did flips, all with my red coffee cup as a background.

Pretty cool. After you tire of the scene on the screen, you can actually send an image via email or Facebook.

There are five characters that Starbucks’ customers can locate on coffee cups and coffee bags. Happy hunting.

Alexandra Wheeler, vice president of global digital marketing for Starbucks, tells Mashable that the idea behind the magic cup app is to “surprise and delight” customers during the holiday season. And she noted that the new app marks the company’s first big push into augmented reality in some years.

For a better idea of how it works, check out this video from Starbucks.

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