Earlier this year, Casino Enterprise Management put out an open call to the industry: Show us the Next Big Thing to hit the slot floor. We wanted to give manufacturers an opportunity to showcase technological advancements that will change the way slot floors operate and customers play. The second annual CEM Slot Floor Technology Awards drew 35 entries from 16 manufacturers. Because some manufacturers put out new products virtually every month, we allowed up to five submissions from each.
The variety of products submitted illustrates the number of directions manufacturers are going in search of advancement. From business intelligence solutions and new video display methods to new cabinet designs and new game concepts, entries ran the gamut from simple and elegant to grand and complex.
We asked a select panel of gaming professionals who use these technologies every day to judge the entries. These fine industry professionals are Buddy Frank, VP of slot operations at Pechanga Casino, Temecula, Calif.; Ralph Margolis, director of slot operations at Mystic Lake Casino and Resort, Prior Lake, Minn.; Chuck Hickey, director of slot operations at Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, Lakeside, Calif.; and Philip Trofibio, vice president of slot operations at MotorCity Casino, Detroit, Mich. We tasked them with selecting the 10 best slot floor technology advances of those nominated.
In alphabetical order, on the following pages are the 10 most innovative new slot floor products for 2008, as selected by our judges. (Judges are Buddy Frank, Ralph Margolis, Chuck Hickey, Philip Trofibio)
3M Touch Systems
Combining 3M’s capacitive touch technology and TouchSense tactile feedback technology from Immersion Corp., 3M’s MicroTouch™ Capacitive TouchSense System got rave reviews from our judges who have hands-on experience with the product. “I have seen this product and it is truly amazing,” Margolis noted.
Touchscreen technology has long relied on audio and visual feedback to signal operators. This new hybrid touchscreen allows operators to receive audio, visual and tactile feedback. According to 3M, this development will allow game developers to take advantage of a whole new set of software tools to design more exciting, interactive games and increase time on device. The hybrid touchscreen also means game manufacturers can replace mechanical buttons with a video button panel. The screen can provide tactile feedback similar to pressing a mechanical button.
Available for inclusion in new video slot games, the tactile feedback technology can be added to existing LCD screen technology without affecting the game software.
When Richard Fiore talks about the design of Acres-Fiore’s new HALO slot game, it doesn’t sound like he’s describing a revolutionary slot floor product. “Our number one objective was simplicity,” he said of the design, which he collaborated on with John Acres. “It’s a single payline, three-reel game.”
But don’t let simple looks deceive you. HALO has a unique feature that is sure to raise eyebrows among operators and players alike. By indicating the likelihood of a bonus wheel spin with a color-coded Win Proximity Indicator, the game draws players in and holds their attention with a virtual countdown to a bonus wheel event. The indicator is advanced by coin-in, not by game play. This allows a player to earn a bonus event without actually winning in the main game.
HALO also held the attention of our judges. “A Win Proximity Indicator and colors that progress from cold to hot are such simple concepts, you wonder why no one else did this sooner,” Frank said. Hickey noted that HALO is an “interesting niche market concept … [a] nice design and call to action for the player.”
Bally’s CineReels™ incorporates many new features into an ergonomic cabinet designed with player comfort in mind. Based on Bally’s CineVision™ widescreen cabinet, CineReels incorporates micro-stepping reel controllers and true “Reel-Stop” functionality, allowing players to exercise true all-stop control.
The cabinet’s features include a high-resolution, 20-inch touch-enabled display directly above the reels and a high-quality audio system for an immersive player experience. Available with three, four, five and seven reels, CineReels’ ergonomic design creates a Privacy Zone™ for players, eliminating distractions and providing a private gaming environment. The proprietary Comfort Zone™ features player comfort and convenience features such as “Easy Select” wagering buttons, an integrated arm rest, an illuminated foot rest and ample room for personal items. The widescreen display allows operators to display progressive features and bonus events on the main screen without the distraction of secondary screens.
Bally iVIEW Display Manager (DM)™
Bally’s iVIEW Display Manager (DM)™ garnered plenty of praise from our judges. The technology allowing operators to present systems content on gaming displays through the iVIEW processor instead of the game processor was a big hit. Margolis called it a “very, very cool and elegant approach,” while Frank said, “This is revolutionary and allows any game to utilize the main game screen for marketing enhancements.”
The advantage of iVIEW DM is that since the game processor requires no modification, no additional manufacturer support is required and no additional regulatory oversight is needed to add marketing or system information right on the gaming device. This allows operators to display player information, session points, jackpots, promotional credits, property specials and promotions in any location on the game display.
Another key point of iVIEW DM is that the iVIEW processor can be used as the connection point between peripherals and the system network. By bypassing the game processor for peripherals, operators can quickly and easily add devices such as fingerprint readers and cameras without seeking game manufacturer support and risking resubmission to regulatory agencies.
Intelligent Cash Box
What kind of difference can JCM Global’s Intelligent Cash Box (ICB) make on your bottom line? According to FireLake Casinos General Manager Linda Canada, her operation saw immediate gains in efficiency after the four-day conversion to ICB in its slot machines. “Right away we saw changes in the number of employees it took to drop the floor,” she said. “We reduced our staff in the pull and count by five. This means we reduced the drop/pull staff requirement by 45 percent after installing ICB.”
Canada estimates labor savings will be approximately $200,000 per year.
Sometimes building a better mousetrap simply means improving an old one. Our judges noted that JCM Global didn’t reinvent the wheel with its Intelligent Cash Box, but it certainly did fashion a nice set of rims. “These concepts have been around, but integrating all the components into the cash box does advance the art,” Frank said of ICB.
Hickey agreed, saying ICB was a “nice integration of capabilities.”
Spielo, a GTECH company
Digital Button Panel
Combining the traditional button panel with the configurability of digital touchscreen displays, Spielo’s Digital Button Panel keeps the mechanical component of traditional slot machine design and adds server-based functionality by allowing the operator to define exactly what those buttons do.
Featuring a full-color 7-inch LCD screen with a mechanical overlay, the Digital Button Panel is as functional as it is practical. The thin, transparent buttons have mechanical switches at the corners and, because they are transparent, make the LCD screen beneath them visible. The LCD can display text or graphics under each button, allowing operators to change button configuration on the fly. Multi-game terminals featuring the Digital Button Panel are no longer tied to a single button configuration, with each gaming able to have its own unique button functionality. The panel also provides a richer gaming experience, allowing the panel to be a dynamic part of the game rather than a static interface.
TouchSense Tactile LCD Button Panel
Using Immersion TouchSense technology to generate tactile feedback in a touchscreen, Spielo has set out to replace the mechanical button panel on slot machines with its endlessly configurable TouchSense Tactile LCD Button Panel. Enabling on-the-fly button configuration changes and different configurations for bonus rounds, the panel is ideal for the world of server-based gaming, where players can choose which game they want to play on which machine. Instead of games being confined to the mechanical buttons built into a machine, the TouchSense Tactile LCD Button Panel allows game developers to design their games with any configuration of buttons desired. The design also means developers could offer the possibility of player-defined button layouts. The tactile feedback simulates the feel of pressing a mechanical button, helping overcome the limitations of traditional audio and visual cues associated with touchscreens.
Tate Access Floors
Building Technology Platform
What would the Slot Floor Technology Awards be without some literal slot floor technology? Tate Access Floors has taken the accessible flooring template and brought it to new heights tailored to the casino floor.
Some features of the Building Technology Platform include modular and re-locatable variable air volume devices, welded steel floor panels filled internally with lightweight cement, plug-and-play modular power wiring systems, and underfloor service pathways accommodating any type of voice and dating systems.
Beyond meeting the structural necessity of having a quality floor in a casino, Tate Access Floors goes a step further by providing an underfloor air system that more efficiently and effectively regulates temperature on the gaming floor—and helps diffuse smoke. “Creating a solution for a busy casino floor is something noteworthy,” Frank said. “In this green world, the smoke-clearing effect at human heights is notable.”
Adaptive Gaming™ featuring Star Trek™
Adaptive Gaming™ is a new gaming concept that WMS is betting will capture the attention of players looking for a more personalized experience. The networked gaming concept allows players to “save” their progress on their game. When first playing a game, players are prompted to create a unique login ID that stores their progress on a nationwide Star Trek™ database maintained by WMS. Each time the player returns to a Star Trek machine, their game can continue.
Our judges were impressed. Frank noted that the popularity of Internet gaming, console games and computer gaming was bound to spill over to the world of video slots. “It’s about time some of the proven features from the computer gaming world crossed over to the slot side, such as saving your skill level,” he said.
Star Trek is the first title in the Adaptive Gaming series. The concept of a personalized and episodic game experience that can be continued is expected to be enhanced with the move to server-based gaming.
Bigger Bang™ Big Event
Combining two of its most innovative product categories, Community Gaming and Transmissive Reels, WMS unveils its newest product: Bigger Bang™ Big Event. The Bigger Bang Big Event platform supports Transmissive Reels Gaming with its distinctively themed 5-reel mechanical base game. Community bonus games take place on the overhead plasma screen. Adding a new twist to its Community Gaming format, WMS has added two competitive bonuses to the mix, meaning that while the entire group might take part in the bonus round, not everyone playing is guaranteed to win.
The dynamics of the base game are enhanced by the Transmissive Reels technology, allowing the bonus game theme to be incorporated into the base game on the reels’ LDC overlay.
Bigger Bang Big Event will initially be available in two different base game themes, Los Aztecas and Gem Hunter, with the line expanding with the future release of Twice the Ice. Bigger Bang Big Event is available in both standalone and wide area progressive models.
Michael Shirek is an Associate Editor at Casino Enterprise Management. He can be reached at (701) 293-7775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.