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Monday, November 23, 2009

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

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.