You've most likely heard plenty about NFC-capable smartphones, but little in the way of actual real-world uses for the chip. Well, MasterCard's looking to change all of that, and throw in a few innovations of its own courtesy of its in-house R&D labs and Google. Shown off at an event today, the company demoed the Google Wallet application we first learned about back in May -- which is gearing up for an official launch sometime "soon." Running on Sprint's Nexus S 4G -- with a planned expansion to multiple devices -- users can connect a Citi MasterCard account to the service, and tap-to-pay at any retail location outfitted with a PayPass station. The transactions take place as instantaneously as you'd expect, with spending alerts notated automatically in-app, as well as via text message. If you're the paranoid type or just a spendthrift, the app offers plenty of options to set spending limits, approve / block purchases via category (i.e. dining, entertainment) and enable alerts for overseas activity. Currently, the Google Wallet service is Android-only, and that's probably a direct result of the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile backed mobile payment rival, ISIS.

But the company's also got one eye fixed squarely on the future -- scheming up alternate implementations for payment on-the-go through its MasterCard Labs division. Focusing on its QkR platform (an obvious play on QR codes), these concepts ranged from television audio signals encoded with purchase data, audible to a phone running the QkR app, or fast-food tabletops embedded with NFC and QR codes that'll allow customers to scan for coupons, order remotely and apply the discount -- all without leaving their seats. The most interesting use of the new platform, however, had nothing to do with mobile phone use and everything to do with an Xbox Kinect. Utilizing the gesture recognition tech, items could be selected on-screen by holding your hand over an item and navigating through the checkout process. We know, yet another great proof-of-concept, but tuck away that cynicism for a second -- a company representative confided to us that soft-pilot testing of QkR is already underway, with an official announcement slated in the next two weeks. And don't worry about it being a Google OS-only affair, QkR's been tested across iOS, Windows Phone Mango and even BlackBerry. Whether or not the innovative payment system'll launch with all of these mobile OS on-board wasn't clear, but we were assured there'd be at least two partners on board. Jump past the break to get a close-up view of our hands-on with the future of payment.

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Hands-on with Google Wallet and MasterCard's QkR App




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MasterCard demos Google Wallet, QkR platform for mobile payments