MOTO's Multi-Touch BlackJack Table Puts The Dealer Out Of Business

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News Posted: Wed, Nov 18 2009 1:02 PM
The MOTO Development Group has just released what may be the coolest thing to hit a casino floor in decades. The group is calling its new Multi-Touch BlackJack table a "world's first," and gamers will soon be able to experience it at the Global Gaming Expo 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of now, the prototype table can run BlackJack and Texas Hold 'Em, and honestly, those two are really the only games you need when you're playing for chips.

The team took an atypical approach to creating this; instead of embedding individual screens in a standard size blackjack table, this concept creates a "seamless virtual table gaming experience that automates the betting process, physical cards, and card-shoes." Gamers gather around it just like they would a traditional table, and cards are slid virtually across the table rather than really moving across. Of course, some may suspect that casinos could use this fact to their advantage, but hey, it's all in good fun, right? Depends on whose cash we're talking about, doesn't it?

Multi-Touch Blackjack: How it Works

In 2007, MOTO developed a prototype of a Multi-Touch Table– a large-scale, resistive-touch system that enables multiple users to conduct simultaneous touch-based interactions in a unified content environment. Table gaming is an ideal application for multi-touch screen technology. Replacing physical tokens, chips, cards, or game pieces with virtual items eliminates tedious setup, distribution, and cleanup tasks while increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the game.

With all that in mind, MOTO developed a full-scale versions of Blackjack for our multi-touch screen. Written in Java, using an open source graphics library called Processing (for images of playing cards, chips, card rotations, and animation), Multi-Touch Blackjack recreates a casino-style game experience on a touch-screen tabletop, giving a familiar game new verve.

From a design perspective, the key challenge was to develop gestures that feel natural and intuitive. Fortunately, Multi-Touch Blackjack also knows what players may want to do based on where they are in the action, so it automates some aspects of the game that might otherwise require non-intuitive actions.

When you have a hand of cards, for example, it assumes you probably want to hide them.

In the multi-touch environment, the basic elements of blackjack gameplay are re-created using familiar gestures and interactions:

Dealing: The dealer simply slides virtual cards across the table (or the task can be automated).

Private viewing: Players can shield their cards from other players by creating a cupped barrier with one hand. This gesture hides the face of the cards behind an opaque “curtain.” To view cards privately, the player slides their cupped hand slowly down the virtual cards. As the hand moves, the opaque curtain rises to reveal a small portion of the cards.

Betting: Bets are placed by dragging virtual chips into the center of the table.

Showing: Players reveal their cards by raising the cupped hand that shields them. (This behavior can be restricted so users cannot show their cards accidentally.)

Human learning curves and security concerns are substantial hurdles that would have to be overcome before multi-touch gaming takes over Vegas. But for folks seeking fun, novel, and truly social interactions with new technology, MOTO’s Multi-Touch Blackjack has proven to be a big 21.

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realneil replied on Thu, Nov 19 2009 9:21 AM

It's a computer, and as such is subject to the 'Garbage in-Garbage out' rule.

The casinos will have it singing their tunes before it ever makes it out onto the gaming floor.

I would never play this thing with earnest money.

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Drago replied on Thu, Nov 19 2009 11:00 AM

Just for fun, yeah these things are cool and all, but to play with real money, you would have to be a blithering idiot. The whole reason people play table games is because there are a finite number of cards used when dealing, and when the cards are played, they go off to the side in black jack till like all the 7 decks are run through. In Texas Holdem, the cards are reshufled in a single deck after every hand. Letting a computer do it for you means that the casino will then dictate how often you will win for black jack.

Seems kinda dumb to let a computer that the casino controls, dictate when and how much you win.

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gibbersome replied on Thu, Nov 19 2009 11:35 AM

Ehh, it's pretty easy to see someone else's cards on this.

Agree with realneil/Drago. I'd like the odds better on a manual blackjack table. Might as well just play the slots.

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 19 2009 5:28 PM

>> I would never play this thing with earnest money.

Totally agree. The more tech progresses, the better the house seems to do against the average Joe.

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ClemSnide replied on Thu, Nov 19 2009 10:41 PM

This seems like it has the advantage of slots (to the casinos, at least) of not requiring as much human tending, while still allowing those immensely popular table games.

Casinos are devoting more and more of their floor space to slots, which don't require sick time, benefits, raises, aren't unionized, and work 24 hours a day uncomplainingly. I imagine a pit of these would still require managers and bosses, but would both eliminate the dealer and speed up the game. In New Jersey's casinos, the idea of hiding cards isn't an issue; few games have secret information on the part of the players.

I'm of two minds when it comes to whether it's fair play or not. When you have a governing body, you have enough oversight that games are on the up-and-up. Do you imagine that a casino would give up their liscense to print money in order to cheat people out of their five dollar bets? Still, casinos don't introduce new games and new technologies for the love of games and tech; there always has to be a bottom line. That's why you're never going to see a game that has a lower house edge than (properly-played) blackjack or (properly-played) craps. Still, the amount saved on employees might be enough to invest in these without substantially changing the game rules and therefore the house edge, as with variants like Spanish 21 and Single-Deck 21 (which pays 1:1 on naturals). And the more bets per hour, the more the house edge-- however slight-- affects the players. Casinos love winners. They're good publicity, and they make their money in the (very) long run, as opposed to the short-run wins and losses of gamblers.

As some have mentioned, there will be distrust of these to begin with. I do gamble, but never online-- there's no oversight. A physical location and a state license works wonders for consumer confidence, though, as does an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Finally, though, we have to remember that the gaming industry makes car companies look radical when it comes to adopting new technologies. In many of he Atlantic City casinos, you still have to print out a comp (a voucher used to get free meals and other gifts through play) despite having a credit-card-like "comp card" which could potentially be used like a debit card. The Borgata started doing this a few years ago, but only recently has the Bally's chain instituted it. So, it'll be a long road before the MOTO multitouch actually puts the dealer out of business.

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