Will Robots Be the Future of Casinos?
Given that robots are used in multiple industrial applications these days, many people are asking the question of how and where they will be deployed to provide more personal services, too. What if robots could make your bed, do your grocery shopping and even create you a cordon-bleu meal? Given the dexterity required to perform as a chef, it begs the question about whether a robot could also act as a croupier.
But of course, a blackjack dealer needs to provide more than just the cards in a land-based or live-action environment. One of the main reasons for choosing a live dealer game in a blackjack online casino is the human interaction you can enjoy. In order for a robotic dealer to be able to offer the same experience in a live online blackjack game in NZ, or anywhere else for that matter, a robotic dealer would have to be able to socialise and react independently to outside stimuli (i.e. conversation and unpredictable behaviour) in order to offer an emotionally satisfying service.
The artificial intelligence and technology used to run virtual games is already well established, but it is a big step forward to think about a robot using such programming to run games in a physical environment. So where do we stand right now in terms of potential development that applies robotic automation to emotionally-nuanced human skillsets?
Robotic Security Systems
The most easily automated application is in security. In fact, there are plenty of automated systems utilised in casino security as tracking with CCTV is a technology that already exists. Facial recognition technology is also available, but this is not yet widely deployed. Using it in a casino setting could help security staff with their tasks, for example, by keeping an eye out for fraudulent activities and even spotting known cheats. What about the human skillset, though?
Many security experts now think that drones will be the robots most suited to security applications in casinos. They could track people after leaving a casino, for example, so that security guards can follow them if needed. This might mean that criminals no longer target casinos since they will know that they cannot escape afterwards. But this still needs human assessment of a situation to decide if any on-site activity is criminal. But if a drone that is small enough and safe enough to deploy on-site is capable of assessing activity, perhaps it can be programmed to anticipate it too?
Robotic Waiting Staff
Serving the requirements of casino-goers in a physical environment is much more than simply dealing the cards and taking the bets. Casinos are places of all-round entertainment, after all, and that includes anticipating needs – both emotional and physical. So although robotic waiters might be something we can look forward to, will they be able to fully replace the human staff?
At the moment, handling food and beverages without spilling them is a big challenge for robots. Honda's Asimo project has shown that it can pour beverages with complicated ingredients. That is certainly impressive for an autonomous robot which can make its way around human environments, like casinos. Japanese robot makers have made great strides with waiting tasks in recent years so the idea of them being used in casinos is not science fiction. Famously, there is a cafe in Afghanistan which uses a robot made in Japan to serve food to paying customers. At the moment, it is a novelty but it could soon become the norm. One day, we might see them deployed on the casino floor to dish out beverages to high rollers, but that still doesn’t cover the emotional interaction that bricks-and-mortar casino-goers currently expect.
Chatting to a member of a casino's bar staff is all part of the experience when visiting a gaming house and some people will never get used to the idea of a robotic bartender. However, as humanoid robots become more and more sophisticated, it is likely to become increasingly difficult to know whether you are ordering from a person or not. In fact, there have been test parameters in place since 1950 that are designed to evaluate the ability of a machine to behave in a manner indistinguishable from a human. To date, no robot exists that can pass an emotional test to the level needed for casino deployment, but robotic bartenders do exist that can perform the physical actions.
Rather than a full-body bartender, the Makr-Shakr is a pair of robotic arms that can choose from an array of bottles above them. Depending on the recipe of the beverage that's been ordered, the arms add the ingredients to the beverage, blend it and then serve it. What's fascinating about this robot is the rhythmic movements it makes; it’s more like a dance performance than a functioning machine. As technology advances, it’s not unreasonable to expect that this type of entertainment will expand to accommodate more than just your thirst.
So now we come to the possibility of encountering a robotic croupier in a live environment when playing blackjack online in NZ. It’s actually not as far fetched as you might think! In fact, there has been lots of research going on in the field of humanoid robotics recently, particularly in Japan and China where this technology is already quite advanced. The key to dealing cards is making robotic hands which can handle these items delicately and with reliable control; while advanced activities like shuffling can already be automated, dealing the cards and understanding when a player is sticking or twisting takes a lot of processing power.
A Hong Kong-based tech company has already developed humanoid robotic croupiers and, what's more, they've already been trialled in Macau. At the moment, the trial is focussed on gauging human reactions to these systems. Specifically, do robots alter the way humans gamble and play games? This is an interesting question and one that developers are keen to answer, but this doesn’t cover the social and emotional aspect of a casino’s services. In practical terms, if the idea works out, then players can expect super-reliable croupiers which produce data that help to ensure verifiable fairness. Robotic croupiers operating in multiple languages could also mean blackjack tables become more welcoming places for players drawn from all over the globe.
But for those who need the emotional and social connection that is offered by a casino environment, the chance of finding that in a robotic dealer is still light-years away.