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Surface Computing the Wave of the Future for Gaming

15 August 2007

Harrah's Entertainment and International Game Technology (IGT), two gaming industry giants, are among the commercial enterprises Microsoft chairman Bill Gates chose as launch partners to experiment with his company's venture into surface computing, which was unveiled with much fanfare earlier this year.

Microsoft Surface takes computers off of desks and puts them in desks. The first generation is a nearly two feet high table with a 21-inch by 42-inch acrylic top, under which is a 30-inch high-resolution display. The hardware, including five camera sensors, is encased underneath.

The revolutionary design opens up a whole new world of touch-screen navigation. It's capable of processing dozens of inputs simultaneously, including hand commands, bar codes and optical tags, employing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking to recognize objects and movement.

"Having a great user-friendly form factor with a lot of flexibilities and elements of the Web could make surface computing quite powerful for people," said David Norton, senior vice-president of relationship marketing for Harrah's.

Possible applications include allowing Harrah's customers to place their Total Rewards player's club card on the table and instantly access their account, and making it possible to take virtual tours of other Harrah's properties. A wealth of information particular to any unique venue will be at the fingertips of guests.

"Our goal is to demonstrate something at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas in November and then hopefully in early 2008 have something in our casinos," Norton revealed.

Microsoft Surface takes user-friendly computer technology to a new plateau by eliminating standard interface such as a "start" button, or objects such as folders and other icons familiar to Windows users, even when booting up.

"Like any new technology there has to be a degree of education, but one of the things that's intriguing is that it is pretty natural," Norton observed. "I think once you get the hang of it, the learning curve is going to be quite steep in a positive direction."

The technology can be particularly effective for Harrah's, which has a global gaming empire. Nearly 40 Harrah's owned properties in the United States, including the Horseshoe in Hammond and Harrah's Joliet in the Chicago area, are Total Rewards casinos.

Microsoft Surface will allow guests to instantly access information at all properties within the Harrah's network and permit easy navigation for trip planning.

Norton even envisions Surface applications to casino floors:

"Gaming has been pretty static in regard to slot machines," he said. "The themes have changed and become more graphic and visual and such, but the essence of it really hasn't changed dramatically."

Researchers at IGT will be exploring ways to apply Surface capabilities to electronic gaming devices and quite possibly change the way gamblers play slots.

CASINO NEWS: Four Winds Casino Resort located in New Buffalo, Michigan celebrated its grand opening Thursday, August 2. A land-based casino developed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the property has 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games across a 130,000 sq. ft. gaming area as well as a 165-room suite hotel. Visit www.fourwindscasino.com for more information.

Dream Dance, the four-star, four-diamond signature restaurant at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, is the recipient of the prestigious "Best of" Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine. The 700 selections on Dream Dance's wine list made the venue eligible for consideration.

"Between the variety of our wine list, and the fact guests can enjoy these wines at retail prices, Dream Dance clearly offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience," said food and beverage director Michael Tsuchihashi.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp