You have a couple of hours to kill before your flying Uber pops up at your window to pick you up and bring you to your Sophia-like AI date. You are bringing her to a Michelin-star restaurant, which is going to cost you a pretty penny. So, what do you do? You put on your virtual reality (VR) set and head to Vegas for some poker action and make up for dinner. Click today to play some online poker games as well as a variety of other casino offerings.
A scenario that only a couple of years ago would’ve sounded like nothing more than a Hollywood imagination seems to be coming to us quicker than people ever expected. And it’s all happening thanks to technologies that are developing faster than you can say machine learning. Speaking of which, let’s see how modern advancements can realistically revolutionize a field that has the potential to be among the most tech-adoptive industries out there. Of course, we’re talking about gambling.
Now imagine the following scenario: you are cruising the streets of LA on your electric scooter when you buzz by the STAPLES Center. The Lakers are playing the Cavaliers tonight, and because of the recent fall of PASPA, California has legalized sports gambling.
Typically, placing a bet would mean having to visit all the booking sites to see who’s giving the most favorable odds. But it’s too much work. Instead, you have allowed an app connected to a beacon located at the stadium to send you contextual information about the game. Injured players? Check. Statistics on past games? Check. Odds given by various bookies? Check. Place online bets? Check.
The best thing about this convenience is that you don’t even have to wait that long. Bluetooth low-energy or BLE beacons have been slowly making their way into the mainstream for some years now. It’s still an emerging tech yet to be adequately developed, but the possibilities are there. The Cavaliers use beacons at their stadium to provide visitors with contextual information, such as seating locations and personalized offers. So do the San Francisco 49ers and some MLB teams.
For beacons to be useful, however, they would need some upgrades. For one, the BLE signal is too weak to be used in a broader vicinity — say, across the street. Another downside of beacons is that at the moment, they’re one-way communication devices transferring data from themselves to the phone, but not vice versa.
Of course, all those drawbacks can be easily fixed once the technology picks up. And given the rising popularity of beacons among the retail, entertainment and leisure industries, beacon technology will only get smarter.
Casinos at Home
Knowing that the future’s gambling uses VR, are you in the mood for some Texas Hold ‘em? How about some blackjack? Whatever floats your gaming boat will be on-demand and within an arm’s reach. You’ll get to customize everything around your game, and we’ll be able to transfer from Vegas to Jersey to Monaco seamlessly.
And how about augmented reality or AR? Perhaps, it will allow you to play with real chips and cards with people from across the world, from the comfort of your home. You get to set up the game to your liking and so will the other players. In other words, you all will be playing the same game, but each player will be doing it in his style.
In fact, VR casinos have existed for a couple of years now. In 2015, a Malta-based company came up with online VR slot machines called SlotsMillion. Then in 2016, former semi-pro poker players came up with Casino VR. The application works with Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR and lets players immerse themselves in a casino-like surrounding by merely putting on the goggles.
Recently, Casino VR creators also released Poker VR — an application designed for playing VR poker. To make the game less awkward, players can create animated avatars that move and gesture like real people. Last year, the slots giant NetEnt also announced its plans to get into the VR gaming scene.
And while for some the idea of virtual and augmented reality sounds like the next 3D cinema — nothing more than a fad — with VR/AR, the technology seems to be here for the long haul.
The Robots Are Coming
Artificial intelligence is in cars, phones and even kitchen appliances. AI is all around us, so how can the gaming industry take advantage of it as well? Well, here are some ideas.
One day you open your favourite casino app, but you’re greeted by a message that your access to the games has been temporarily revoked. What follows is a gentle reminder of how much money you have spent on gambling for the past week, along with a discrete suggestion to check out some resources on gambling addiction.
Scenario 2: you’re in the mood for some poker, so you’re joining a table with the intent to blow off some steam and possibly help your budget. But the game is getting progressively frustrating. No matter how many decent cards you get and no matter how well you play them, it seems that one particular player has the edge over the whole game. Not only that, but it appears that his poker skills are out of space. Shortly after, the virtual dealer announces that the player in question has been disqualified from the table for cheating.
Helping people play responsibly and catching cheaters in the act are only two of the countless ways that the gambling industry can utilize AI’s power. And in doing so, it would be nothing new.
Now meet BetBuddy: a software whose creators say it can detect irresponsible play with 87 per cent accuracy. The software uses smart algorithms such as neural networking to analyze players’ behaviour and warns both players and operators about possible gambling addiction in progress. In this way, operators get notified about players who need to take a break while players themselves are provided with resources on managing their gambling behaviour.
As for security, similar technology can be used. AI can analyze players’ playing style and warn operators when detecting sudden and inexplicable changes in gaming patterns or the wins/losses ratio. Of course, for this to happen, AI developers need to ensure that it can distinguish between a game pattern that has changed due to cheating and has resulted from the player’s improved skills. In other words, in gambling, just like with other industries, the biggest challenge with AI is teaching it to understand the context.
From poker to blackjack and from slots to sports wagering, each gambling industry’s area gets to benefit from emerging technologies. And as we saw in this article, the changes are already happening. AI detects troublesome behaviour, VR lets players experience home games like never before, and sports teams use simple technology to ease the hassle that typically surrounds visiting a game. And these are only a few of the emerging technologies that are making their way into the gaming field. With machine learning, blockchain tech and even 3D printing, the possibilities before the industry are quite numerous. And it won’t take long before we get to see how else innovative entrepreneurs make use of today’s cornerstone technological advancements.