With all the articles and TV shows about the potential for virtual and augmented reality (AR and VR), it’s easy to forget that they aren’t just buzzwords; they’re living, breathing pieces of technology with applications in just about every sector, from medicine to business.
But what can they do for casino?
First of all, a quick primer – what are augmented and virtual realities? The former – AR – is the technology behind Pokémon Go; it enhances the real world without taking the player away from it, adding in creatures, planes, ghosts and any number of digital interlopers. Virtual reality, on the other hand, substitutes the player’s environment for a new, computer-generated one.
Card games might sound like a world away from the high-tech worlds of VR and AR but there’s evidence to suggest that some of the first truly innovative experiences could come from the casino industry, especially given iGaming’s willingness to adopt new ideas like mobile play.
Phones and tablets are ubiquitous – there are now more gadgets on the planet than humans. Consequently, they’re one of the easiest ways for companies to reach their customers (and for players to keep up with their hobbies) at any time of the day, whether through apps or mobile websites.
Some brands in the iGaming niche have taken mobile gaming to its logical extreme. For example, PocketWin, a company based in the UK, allows players to make a deposit by phone, meaning that they can add the cost of their gaming onto their bill and pay it at the end of the month. The site also offers iOS and Android versions of its unique slot machines.
(CC BY-SA 2.0) by nrkbeta
Returning to AR and VR, casino’s version of the latter isn’t too far removed from VR in the wider video games industry – it’s a way for players to experience new environments up close. So, let’s ignore the already established arena of virtual casinos and card tables. The true innovation in online gaming arguably lies in “travelling without moving” or heading to the World Series of Poker without leaving the sofa.
It might sound like a pipe dream (and, at such an early point in VR’s lifecycle, it is) but the ability to offer VR “tickets” to live events is an endgame goal for any industry with an audience.
For example, during the 2016 Six Nations tournament, the Welsh Rugby Union posted a 360-degree video on Facebook of the Scottish and Welsh national anthems at Principality Stadium. It’s not VR but it’s exactly what Google’s DIY device, the Cardboard VR, was designed to view, the difference being that it’s a way to view a pre-recorded scene, not a live event.
With advances in camera technology, the potential exists for transporting headset wearers to a stadium, a casino floor, or even a TV studio for some live Jeremy Kyle action on a weekday afternoon. There are obvious questions around interactivity – how will VR spectators mingle with live ones? – but it’s still an exciting prospect.
(CC BY-SA 2.0) by amsfrank
AR has fewer applications in the casino industry (especially on mobile), simply because it’s not as interesting or versatile a technology. The use of HoloLens-type devices, a headset that allows architects (for example) to build prototype buildings right on their dining-room table, could change all that though.
HoloLens, made by Microsoft, melds the permanence (as long as the user is wearing the headset, at least) of VR environments with the reality-shifting abilities of AR. Put another way, imagine a pair of glasses that lets you see Pokémon Go’s critters in real time, without the need to look through your phone’s camera.
The technology’s most prominent use to date is as a companion to block-building game Minecraft, but swap out the pixelated trees and Creepers for a roulette table or a slot machine and HoloLens becomes a way for casinos to get their games in players’ homes. It’s something that doesn’t exist yet but AR is arguably more appealing for players than VR, given the motion-sickness risk associated with the Oculus Rift and similar devices.
So, there you have it, casino’s high-tech future via two of the most promising developments in gaming, VR and AR.