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The U.S. Postal Service has been in increasingly severe fiscal trouble for years. With Americans increasingly turning to electronic communication services, and despite postage prices that have risen at double the rate of inflation since the end of World War I, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is increasingly finding it difficult to remain financially viable.
So, in an apparent effort to make itself technologically relevant, the USPS has developed an augmented reality app for smartphones. Popular Mechanics‘ Carl Franzen explains how the Post Office is hoping its new app will convince today’s smartphone users to visit any of the USPS’ 156,000 mail collection boxes:
I found a surprise when I checked my mailbox today (for the first time in at least a week): a pamphlet from the US Postal Service advertising various holiday services, among them a free new augmented reality app for iPhone and Android. The acronym-heavy USPS AR app, released earlier this week, is supposed to let you scan any of the USPS’s iconic blue collection boxes in your neighborhoods using your smartphone’s camera. The app should then display holiday-themed “tips, tricks and entertainment” on top of the mailbox in your smartphone’s camera view.
It’s a simple demonstration of augmented reality’s potential: layering digital information over real-world objects in ways that add context or provide richer experiences. But to keep itself relevant in the digital age, the USPS needed to go further than this first attempt, which is little more than a greeting card.
If that sounds pretty useless, that’s because it is. There’s even a video of the app in action:
With execution like that, is it any wonder that the U.S. Postal Service has cost U.S. taxpayers over $47 billion since June 2006, the last time it operated in the black for more than a single quarter? And even then, only after hiking postage rates?