I just got back from Bally Technologies’ eighth “Systems User Conference,” an event designed to show those of us who have been in the business since the 1980s what true dinosaurs we are.
The conference, held at California’s Pechanga Resort, gives live, on-floor demonstrations of the latest in slot-system technology—mainly, networked, server-based applications. Or, as the hipsters say, “killer apps.”
Now, I’m a guy who still uses the physical buttons when I play video poker. My cell phone contains no “apps.” It makes calls, and it receives calls. I have only recently mastered texting. As far as slot machines, yes, I have graduated from the handle to the ultra-modern “Spin” button (I know you were wondering), but I actually remember when part of the ritual of play was to crack open a roll of quarters.
Yes, kids, we used to insert the credits into the machine. Manually. And we liked it, by God!
What I saw at the conference, though, went way beyond anything we considered part of slot play, or even casino play, in the old days.
Beyond practical demonstrations of stuff that’s available right now, attendees were educated on what they call the “Bally Cloud.” As best as I can understand, the “cloud” is the internet, and Bally games are added to social networks and the like so anyone can access slot games anywhere, on any kind of medium. You’ll be able to download slots to your cell phone. To your iPad. To your toaster.
At first, I thought they were saying “Bally Clown.” I was waiting for someone to make balloon animals and squirt seltzer in attendees’ faces.
But the Bally Cloud will be used for what the system gurus call the “Gamification of Loyalty.” What was once coin coupons in your mailbox will now be games fed to your slot machine as you’re in the casino. Very cool games that let you use the “iDeck” pad on the slot machine as sort of a virtual joystick to roll a skeeball, shoot at starships, play the piano, earn a master’s degree, or save 15 percent on your auto insurance.
OK, just the skeeball and shooting stuff. But hey, anything that uses a made-up word like “gamification” has got to be good, right?
Some of the other stuff about to come through networked systems is really mind-boggling to a reel-spinning dinosaur like myself. According to some of the presentations, slot systems will soon be able to use biometrics to recognize you. The computer will know who you are, and from your stored profile, will be able to tailor bonus games to what you like. In my case, I’ll probably get games featuring the Three Stooges.
One presentation talked about using biometrics along with “indoor GPS” to track people as they move around a property. The idea is to send a promo or discount coupon to your iPhone for a restaurant you happen to be standing in front of.
I don’t know if I want the casino’s player loyalty system knowing where I am at all times. What if I go to the bathroom? Are you sending me offers for hand sanitizer while I’m in there? What if I’m stalking someone? Will they get the offers too?
Some of the other futuristic stuff that they say is only a few years away includes the use of holograms as the next level of 3D technology. So, if you trigger a bonus in a pirate-themed game, a pirate will appear next to you and say, “Harrrr!”
I don’t know about you, but at some of the places in Atlantic City where I play, you’ll have elderly people dropping dead at the sudden appearance of a hologram pirate. But they say the biometrics can estimate a player’s age within five years, so maybe they’ll be able to control that. The systems will be offered with “heart-attack minimization” technology, or HAM.
The conference ended with a talk by Dr. James Canton, a “futurist” who helped build the original Apple computer. He talked about merging graphic images with reality on the casino floor. He said slot machines should be able to talk to you, and greet you by name without you even putting a player’s club card in. He said that soon, “the internet will be watching you” through your machine.
Your slot machine will be able to “think.” It will know what you want before you do. The “cloud computing” will use “key verticals” to achieve “blended reality.”
From my perspective as an industry dinosaur, I could only come up with one word after Canton’s presentation, which I stood up and shouted: