BACK PAGE: Glimpsing the future, or not
The list of Casino Journal’s Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products always affords a view of where the industry’s headed. Or at least where it thinks it is headed.
As someone who has spent over a decade moderating server-based gaming panels (I won’t do it anymore), I know that divining the future is risky stuff. At one of our conferences last year, an award winner had the candor to admit that the product for which his company had been recognized turned out to be a stinker (no, it was not a gaming technology product). This elicited howls of protest from certain participants afterwards, for reasons I don’t know. We’re fallible, we’re human, we’re so often wrong. And then we go away forever. Stay humble, my friends.
Still, this year’s list confirms the emerging and enduring strength of several powerful product trends. Leveraging new technologies to provide more marketing power, business intelligence, mobile and online gaming-these are the products that dominate our operator-judged list. For a full view, see the article starting on page 16.
Projecting the future will always be irresistible because a) it’s fun, and b) you can get very rich if you’re right about one big thing before anyone else. And not in that particular order. But the moment you hazard a guess about something more than incremental change, you’re on your own, and no one can help you. Take the book, The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery By Parachute, And Other Predictions From The Past, a compilation of mostly errant visions of change from the pages of Popular Mechanics. As critic David Pitt from Booklist notes, “If the various predictions seen here had come true, we’d be living today in cities with multiple underground levels for pedestrians and traffic (predicted in 1928); or cities made of glass (1936). We’d be living in home with furniture you clean with a hose (1950) and wearing clothing made of aluminum (1929). Our cars would fly (1928, 1943), or maybe we’d be driving “Rotavions,” personal landing or takeoff vehicles that can operate as an airfoil or a helicopter (1961).”
Rather than poke fun at such predictions, the book’s larger purpose is to show how predictions made by the brightest minds using the best information available to them at the time can still go way wide of the mark. Like baseball, you’re going to fail most of the time, but sometimes the best players will connect. Pocket-sized computers, for the record, were predicted as far back as 1962.
Closer to now, there is Dr. Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future, whose three-year-old presentation”The World in 2030” was drawn from interviews with 300 of the world’s top scientists and has over two million hits on Youtube. Citing Moore’s law, the formula that confirms computer power doubles every 18 months, by 2020, computer chips will cost a penny and computers will be, “everywhere and nowhere, hidden in the fabric of our lives. This means the Internet,” Kaku wrote. Glasses are already available with full Internet capabilities such as the ability to e-mail, download films and, in the future, confirm the identity of strangers for you on the fly. Right now, such “eyewear” is goggle-like and unwieldy, but it will become fashionable, again thanks to exponential gains in computing power. Internet-enabled contact lenses connected via WiFi to a supercomputer? Working on it, according to Kaku. “In the future, you will see subtitles of a foreign language translated simultaneously in your contact lenses while someone is speaking a foreign language in front of you.”
He doesn’t really explain how the visuals are presented, but that sounds like a minor detail to me.
REMEMBERING BILL EADINGTONAny “observer” such as me who covers the gaming industry owes an enormous debt to Dr. Bill Eadington, the founding director for the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, who passed away last month at the age of 67. There was no more esteemed gaming academic in the world, and his impact was widely felt.
“He arrived on campus in 1969 and, for all intents and purposes, invented the field of gambling studies,” said Bo Bernhard, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the New York Times. “As subfields began to emerge, he had a hand in those as well.”
I will always remember Bill speaking at a racing and gaming conference we produced years ago with the University of Arizona in Tucson, sounding a skeptical note about certain kinds of racetrack gaming facilities, which he called, “slot machines surrounded by animals running in circles.” He was an engaging, independent authority on gaming, and it was an industry he had enormous affection for. He will be sorely missed.