Harrah’s Surfaces

This fall Microsoft is going to apparently release a new device called Surface that will change computing. Interesting, but there’s a casino angle too. From MSNBC:

The radical new approach starts with the guts of the device itself. Under the impact-resistant plastic top skin on an otherwise nondescript table hide five infrared scanners, a projector and a wireless modem. The scanners recognize objects and shapes placed on the top and respond to them accordingly. For example, if the scanners recognize fingers, and the fingers have been placed in color circles that appear on the surface, the projector shows colored lines that follow the tracings and movements of your fingers. Meanwhile, an internal modem sends and receives signals from any electronic device placed on it. All of the hardware is run by a special version of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows Vista.

To do things on Surface’s tabletop screen, you reach down, touch it and push it. To make the image you see on the screen bigger, spread your fingers. To make it smaller, squeeze your fingers together. To move something into the trash, push it into the trash with your hand. And it allows what Microsoft calls “Multi-Touch” and “Multi-User” interaction — namely, more than one person can interact with it at a time. Try that with your home computer.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of Surface, though, is its natural interaction with everyday objects and technologies. When you place your Wi-Fi-enabled digital camera on the table, for example, Surface “sees” the camera and does something extraordinary: It pulls your digital pictures and videos out onto the table for you to look at, move, edit or send. Images literally spill out in a pool of color.

The first place you’ll probably see Microsoft Surface is at one of its four inaugural retail partners, including T-Mobile USA, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Harrah’s Entertainment. At T-Mobile, for example, you will be able to place any of their phones on Surface. Surface will sense the presence of each individual phone and then project each phone’s features in front of you for you to consider. If you want to add a feature in the store, just “push” that feature “into” your phone with your finger.
Microsoft unveils revolutionary device – Today: Money – TODAYshow.com

So who’s the fourth retail partner?

The big question is, what will Harrah’s do with Surface? Will it be just a new interface for its Total Rewards kiosks? Will it be incorporated into the gaming floor? Everyone’s been pretty mum about regulatory approvals if it’s the latter, so that may take some time.

From the way it’s described, a Surface that’s working with an RFID reader could change several table games. Roulette, for example, could be much better managed–no worries about past-posting or sliding bets around, and no need for a dealer to compute payoffs in his or her head. You’d still need a dealer to sell chips, drop the ball, and pay off winning bets, but you’d cut down on disputes.

I’m very interested to see how this develops.

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