At the iBar ultra lounge at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, guests can explore Harrah’s properties and attractions using the See and Be Scene application. Harrah’s customized the Microsoft Surface photo application.


Microsoft Corp.’s Surface computer technology appears to be finding a home in the hospitality and gaming world, judging from two recent installations.

In June, a Harrah’s Entertainment subsidiary deployed the Microsoft Surface technology at the iBar ultra lounge inside at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In doing so, Harrah’s also became the first company to deploy a suite of customized applications for Microsoft Surface and to install it in an entertainment venue, providing guests with personalized and engaging social experiences with the Surface units.

Microsoft Surface, the first commercially available surface computer from Microsoft, is a 30-inch tablelike display that allows individuals or multiple people to interact with digital content in a familiar way by using touch, gestures or objects from the real world.

Without a mouse or keyboard, the 360-degree user interface and massive multitouch capabilities of Microsoft Surface provide Harrah’s guests with a social experience that infuses the best of technology with the best of Vegas nightlife.

“At Harrah’s we are continually working to advance our innovation agenda and create unique, compelling and innovative guest experiences and unparalleled guest service,” Tim Stanley, Harrah’s chief information officer and senior vice president of innovation, gaming and technology, said when the Rio iBar deployment was announced in June.

“With Microsoft Surface, Harrah’s is designing new and exciting ways to engage our millions of existing customers as well as offering a new genre of guest innovative opportunities to discover the uninhibited excitement of our venues. This launch of Microsoft Surface into our business is another example of our next-generation interactive customer relationship management capabilities that aim to deliver personalized, interactive and immersive experiences for guests as they spend time at our properties.”

“People continue to be excited about the endless possibilities of Surface technology and how it can transform everyday scenarios, including the social and entertainment space,” said Pete Thompson, general manager for Microsoft Surface. “With this latest deployment of Surface, we’re now bringing some of those possibilities to life and showcasing the breadth of opportunities Microsoft Surface provides to innovative businesses like Harrah’s.”

Virtual Vegas, the Microsoft Surface concierge application customized by Harrah’s, allows Rio hotel-casino iBar guests to walk down the Las Vegas Strip with their fingers or explore the world using Microsoft Virtual Earth.  

Cool apps

Through the unique interaction that Microsoft Surface enables, Harrah’s has created a suite of custom applications to provide guests with hip new ways to create their own ultimate entertainment experience in an ultra-lounge venue.

One application actually allows customers to flirt by using the Surface to chat and meet people sitting around another Surface display. Strategically placed video cameras at each Surface allow guests to interact with old friends, flirt with new acquaintances, and take and send photos across the lounge.

A Harrah’s food and beverage application for Surface lets guests order special signature cocktails for themselves or to send to someone else .

Harrah’s also offers a series of play-for-fun games, using the Surface interface. The games have titles such as High Roller bowling, Dissed multiplayer pickup pinball, and a Last Call musical memory game designed to encourage group play.

See and Be Scene is what guests can do as they tour all of Harrah’s Vegas properties and explore attractions in Vegas without leaving their seat at the iBar.

Virtual Vegas gives guests the ability to take a virtual walk down the Las Vegas Strip on Surface, letting their fingers be the guide. Guests will be able to get information on the latest events and attractions at all Harrah’s properties throughout Vegas.

In addition to Harrah’s unique applications and play-for-fun games, the Surface units also feature a photos application and a virtual concierge application developed by Microsoft that Harrah’s customized for its environment.

International Game Technology also is involved with Microsoft Surface. It is working on developing gaming applications for Surface and has a distributor agreement with Microsoft.

Guests at select Sheraton hotels can explore all a city has to offer by simply moving their hands across the Microsoft Surface concierge application, instantly accessing information on popular local attractions and services.

Enabling guests

In August, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts introduced Surface at select Sheraton hotels in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

In the Sheraton deployment, the Microsoft Surface displays allows use by several guests simultaneously to explore local tourist highlights and enhance their hotel stay through an its intuitive user interface.

Sheraton is offering a customized version of the Microsoft Surface-developed suite of applications to provide entertainment and information about local attractions. Surface and these applications are designed to serve the needs of the brand’s core guests who are social individuals seeking to share the travel experience with one another, the companies said.

The Sheraton applications include CityTips, Sounds of Sheraton and Sheraton Snapshots.

CityTips puts at guests’ fingertips the Surface 360-degree satellite maps and tools to search for local restaurants and bars, entertainment, recreation, shopping, transportation and services, such as banks and pharmacies.

Sounds of Sheraton serves as a lobby-based digital jukebox, enabling guests to create personal music playlists by choosing selections from Sheraton’s exclusive offering of Sony BMG artists, including John Legend, Kenny Chesney and Lauryn Hill.

Sheraton Snapshots allows guests to explore Sheraton hotels and resorts throughout the world by simply browsing the Surface photo library of Sheraton resorts and hotel properties to help them plan for future business or leisure travel.

“Sheraton is redefining the hospitality experience by offering our guests technology that will allow them to interact with each other and our hotel in a revolutionary way,” said Hoyt H. Harper II, senior vice president for Sheraton, said in an August news release.

“We’re excited to be working with Sheraton in its efforts to feature innovation and redefine the guest experience in its hotel properties,” Microsoft’s Thompson said. “Surface takes a common activity, such as looking up information about a local city, and transforms it into an intuitive and social way for hotel guests to plan their visit. We believe this is just the beginning of how Surface will completely change the hotel guest experience.”