Touch-screen technology has expanded beyond speeding up slot games to helping guests with cash transactions, ordering meals or simply providing directions

In what may be the shortest evolutionary period on record, touch screens in casinos have gone from an interesting add-on that replaced or augmented buttons and mechanical arms on slot machines to a product that can be used throughout any property.

New uses include helping guests secure gaming funds, cash out when play is over, order meals, and even direct customers to places of interest around the property.

“Nearly all of our slot and video poker machines now have touch screens,” said Mike Mitchell, vice president of game development at Las Vegas-based Bally Technologies. “And an increasing number of machines now have two touch screens to expand play in bonus rounds and offer other interesting features to players.”

“With the introduction of touch screens, slot machines became more interactive,” said Lorna Wood, global marketing manager at the Elo TouchSystems unit of Tyco Electronics, based in Menlo Park, Calif. “This makes the game better for the player as it allows more play options that enrich the gaming experience and encourages guests to play longer.”

And touch-screen manufacturers are constantly upgrading their products to provide better features and performance. Working with slot game developers, companies such as Elo and 3M Touch Systems find out what they would like touch screens to do, create a solution and then work with the developers to help them make maximum use of the features in their games.

One recent development Bally’s Mitchell liked is real glass on touch screens that enable translucent reels that add a 3-D effect to the action on the screen.

Increased durability also is in demand.

Elo recently unveiled the Elo TouchSystems 2240L monitor, which is a more rugged and durable addition to the company’s portfolio of wide-aspect ratio open-frame LCD touch monitors, said Wood.

Designed especially for use in high-traffic casino gaming, video-game entertainment and self-service kiosk environments, the 2240L is made with heavier-duty metals. Its pure glass sealed screen that resists damage from spilled drinks, smoke and other potential hazards found around casinos.

The 22-inch 2240L touch monitor provides a wide viewing angle and delivers bright and clear colored text and graphics that retain their integrity through long use, Wood explained. Offered for seamless fit in gaming applications, it can be deployed in both landscape and portrait orientations. The front-facing metal-hardened anodized bezel and L-mounting brackets enable flexible installation in a variety of casino locations from entertainment to retail venues.

The 2240L includes Elo’s IntelliTouch SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) technology, which adds touch controls to a monitor without surface overlays as tiny transducers create ultrasonic waves across the surface that when interrupted by a finger triggers the required selection.

A sensation of touch

Another recent touch-screen advance is tactile feedback technology that gives on-screen game pads the sensation of pressing traditional mechanical buttons.

Offered by the MicroTouch Capacitive TouchSense (MCT) System introduced by 3M Touch Systems Inc., headquartered in Methuen, Mass., this next-generation touch interface can enliven the play of any game, said Scott Hagermoser, 3M gaming business unit manager. With tactile feedback, players can see, hear and feel the button selections, giving their favorite slot games a whole new dimension of play, he explained.

And casinos don’t have to buy new slots to get this feature. Conversion kits that enable the quick addition of the MCT System to existing games are being brought to market by 3M Touch Systems.

Bally’s Mitchell approved of this technology, noting that “it gives players positive acknowledgement of their game actions.”

A coming development from Elo is another technology that ties in play on touch screens with a user ID. Wood said the system will record who and where the screen was touched, so a player cannot say after losing a wager that somebody else reached over and touched the screen, placing a bet the player didn’t intend to make.

And Wood added that Elo is rapidly moving its touch-screen technology into the table game market in automated poker and roulette tables.

On poker tables, players can check their hole cards and bet virtual chips by touching specific areas on their player position screens. With automated roulette, players also can place bets on specific numbers or simply black or red touch areas on a central screen containing the wagering grid. Without having to move around actual chips, games can move faster.

Finding the way

Other new uses of touch screens in casinos are in interactive wayfinder signs that assist guests in finding anything in and around a casino.

Intended for placement at strategic locations throughout casino properties, 3M’s MicroTouch ClearTek capacitive touch wayfinder signs not only tell guests where they are, but by touching the on-screen map find out how to get where they want to go. Touching individual locations also explains what they offer, including specials. The sign offers users a choice of languages too.

Elo’s 1900L and 2200L touchscreens can be adapted for wayfinder signs, as well as other retail and hospitality uses. These LCD monitors’ zero-bezel design eliminates the frame area to create a seamless glass surface for showcasing all forms of video, with the audio playing from built-in downward-facing speakers. Incorporating Acoustic Pulse Recognition technology, the monitor reacts to the sounds created when the surface is touched by a finger or other type of stylus, designating the specified area on the screen to call up information from directions to on-premises amenities to calling up restaurant menus.

A full selection of touch-screen-centered. self-service products for casinos is offered by NCR Gaming Solutions, Dayton, Ohio. These systems, said Scott Winzeler, NCR gaming industry marketing vice president, are designed to help casino operators boost customer enjoyment by helping them do or locate things of interest by themselves.

The line begins with gaming floor devices that enable players to get cash to play, streamline TITO ticket redemption and where guests prefer to deal with a cashier, may the trip to the cage quicker.

Self-service kiosks enable guests to bypass the front desk and to check in, including confirming their reservations, encoding and dispensing mag-stripe room keys, and printing guest folios. Enabling casinos to get guests into rooms faster during rush periods and conventions, these kiosks also offer guests the opportunity to upgrade room accommodations and take advantage of restaurant and gift offers.

Once checked in, NCR’s wayfinding product helps them navigate the property with a few deft touches to the product’s touch screen. If guests want to find a restaurant, they touch the “restaurants” pad and all eateries on the screen’s map glow green. Press for an individual restaurant, and information on its menu offerings appears. The screen even plots the fastest way to the desired location, Winzeler said.

Other NCR systems enable self-service at restaurants with pay kiosks where visitors select their meals and pay with a credit, debit or player card before going to the pick-up location and find a seat.