New technologies for slot chairs and cabinets help players have the most fun possible for hours on end

Ergonomics can be a large factor determining how long someone can play comfortably at a gaming machine.

Change is afoot in the realm of slot machines as a new ergonomics takes hold.

In the beginning, the emphasis was on making a more comfortable stool on which players could park before their favorite games. And once the enthrallment with not having to stand before slots subsided, manufacturers seeming engage in a competition to make their slots chairs more comfortable than the next.

More recently, ergonomic design has extended to the slot machines themselves, making them easier and less wearing on players engaged in the repetitive motion involved in long slots play. And now, slots seating is becoming part of the overall entertainment experience casinos want their customers to have.

“The trend toward interactive slots seating is very exciting,” said Bob Yabroff, president of Reno-based Gary Platt Manufacturing. “Built as part of the games module itself, the seat is designed to make the player part of the game. Surrounded by the video screen, you not only hear sounds but feel the movement of the game as the chair shakes in reaction.”

But the basic ergonomics is still in place in modern slots seating.

The dictionary defines ergonomics as “the science of designing products for maximum comfort and ease of use.” And that is exactly the goal of manufacturers as they employ this science to create plush that alleviates the fatigue and soreness that can occur from sitting for long stretches while engaged in repetitive motion activity.

This includes properly positioning a player before the slots screen and keyboard so he doesn’t suffer a stiff neck, while positioning the feet flat to a surface to take pressure off the joints so the potential for leg cramps and numbness is greatly reduced. Seats also must fit the contours of buttocks and thighs to provide necessary support while holding the back at a right angle to keep it from getting sore.

“How comfortable a player feels during a game not only determines how long he will play but also whether he will return to that particular casino in the future,” said Steve Odden, sales and marketing vice president at MLP Seating Corp., based in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

And despite slot chairs being around for nearly 50 years, manufacturers are still adding new ergonomic wrinkles to their lines of regular slots chairs.

Classico Seating, Peru, Ind., is adding some new ergonomic touches to its line of products. These include memory foam in seats that returns to its original shape after providing hours of comfortable support to players’ bottoms, and the addition of arm rests to give players a place to lean or rest their arms during marathon gaming sessions.

“We also are making it easier for players to keep their ‘lucky’ chairs,” said Hank Richardson, chairman at Classico. “We’ve added Teflon to the underside of our Floating Base chairs that enable players to easily glide then across carpeted floors to different machines without the use of wheels.”

One of the newest offerings from MLP Seating’s Platinum Series

MLP unveiled at the 2009 G2E Show its new Platinum Series of slots chairs, which Odden claimed are the most comfortable the company has marketed. A key feature is a multidensity molded seat containing closed cell foam produced with a proprietary mixture of chemicals. Denser in the middle than on the sides, the seat better supports yet caresses a player’s bottom for hours of comfort.

Other features include an oval tube base that not only provides a unique look but also provides sturdier support than wood for longer use, Odden said. Platinum Series slots chairs also come in two heights, with a variety of seat cushion and back shapes, and in any color a casino might desire. This line is scheduled to reach the market early this year.

Gary Platt continues to expand its line of X-Tended Play chairs, unveiling two new designs (Roxy and Danic) at the 2009 G2E Show. Key comfort features of these chairs are a contoured plywood seat and back covered with a molded high-density cold-cured foam, and lumbar support that prevents strain on the back, neck and arms.

Among the latest chairs from Gary Platt Manufacturing include The Vue and the Sound Chair. The Sound Chair incorporates ergonomic features, including the incorporation of audio.

Also new from Gary Platt is the Designer Series that allows casinos to create their own signature chairs for slots and table games by choosing from among assorted shapes, configurations (such as a see-through back) and colors. This line is primarily aimed at the Native American casino market, where demand for Las Vegas-style décor is rising.

But as entertainment becomes an increasing important goal of the slots playing experience, chairs are decidedly going space age.

The MEGAfx Surround Chair now appearing on the immersion slot games of Reno-based IGT resembles a Ferrari driver’s seat adapted for use on a UFO. But according to Mike Smith, IGT platform engineering development manager, it feels as relaxing as a LZ Boy recliner.

Much work went into devising this chair to strike a happy medium between exciting and comforting the player, he explained.

“We worked with two chair manufacturers to get the comfort ergonomics right, so it was the right height and width and provided players with optimum support,” Smith said.

“And then we added sound systems, aiming game sounds at players from the front and from above. Coupled with the 103-inch LCD screen, the game envelops the player, making him part of the action, to the point of enabling him to feel the action,” he noted.

Part of this feeling is provided by a bass speaker that aims a low sound at the player not unlike the Sensurround System that Universal Pictures used in films such as “Earthquake” and the 1976 remake of “King Kong” that let theatergoers feel the action on the move screen. This is especially apparent in the IGT slots game “Bombs Away,” where in bonus rounds players go on bombing runs and the sounds of the airplane and the bombs hitting targets shake the chair as if the action was really occurring.

“Even so, we had to be careful in how we deployed this immersion technology,” Smith emphasized. “We couldn’t let the effects created by the sound system pound the player. They had to be subtle but noticeable. And while the effects were noticeable to the player, they couldn’t be outside the machine’s play area where they could intrude on others.”

Other ergonomic touches offered on MEGAfx Surround Chairs are the ability to adjust chair height and to move it backward or forward so players can secure their personal comfort position. And the machines have left and right hand controls.

MEGAfx chairs are currently a feature on a wide selection of IGT slot games from the dramatic such as “Indiana Jones” to action adventures such as “The Amazing Race” and even the romantic such as “Sex and the City.”

Another new chair from MLP Seating’s Platinum Series

Comfort and functionality are also the goals of the new slot machine offerings of Waukegan, Ill.-based WMS. And with the new Bluebird xD cabinet, what goes around the chair is every bit as important as the seating itself.

Advanced ergonomic design in the Bluebird xD cabinet builds on the successful features of the earlier Bluebird 2 cabinet in blending physical and emotive lighting elements with function. Certain aspects include a slant top with the convenience and footprint of an upright slot, reduced glare based on ergonomic screen positioning, generous leg clearance, a padded wrist cushion and button panel for added comfort. Add to that dual LCD displays in both video and mechanical reel versions, and a state-of-the-art Bose sound system. That system calibrates to how the human ear perceives sound by adjusting tonal balance whenever the game volume changes. In turn, the player hears crisp, clear audio.

The WMS Sensory Immersion platform took ergonomic technologies through new and immersive technologies, allowing players to hear, see, and feel their gaming experience in an entirely new way. The Wizard of Oz themed game was introduced on the Sensory Immersion platform, which featured real-time 3D animation and WMS’ Bose 3Space audio system gaming chair with CPU-NXT 2 enhanced graphics. The next Sensory Immersion introduction that uses the Sensory Immersion technology was “The Wizard of Oz: The Ruby Slippers,” introduced during G2E 2009. This product extends the brand by combining visual and audio excitement, taking player experience to a new level, and allowing players to journey through the Land of Oz.

Long a believer boosting the comfort level for players will result in longer game play times, WMS claimed that its recent ergonomic improvements have resulted in its Player-Driven Innovation Effort. By listening to the voice of the player – and thus understanding his or her wants and preferences as they mature and evolve – the company has secured some of its best ideas to boost comfort and ease operation of its slot machines.

Bally Technologies also has been a leader in the ergonomic arena. Its groundbreaking CineVision video cabinet uses the same 16:9 aspect ratio found in movie theaters and on the latest wide-screen home theaters. Padded armrests and advanced ergonomic design create what it calls the Comfort Zone for increased time on device. Its Privacy Zone eliminates distractions and immerses the player in a private gaming environment, with stereo speakers above the display producing a cinematic audio effect. The company continues to focus on ergonomics in its newer products as well, offering the latest innovation in player-friendly game technology. Bally products are designed with features to enhance the player`s gaming experience, so casino customers can play longer with less fatigue and more satisfaction.

Atronic/Spielo offers a handheld remote for its prodiGI slot machines. It lets players push for “Play” or repeat the bet without having to lay hands on the slot machine’s control panel.

Ergonomic features also are designed into the prodiGi Vu cabinet employed by Atronic/Spielo. These include two 22-inch-wide LCD screens mounted at optimal height for easy viewing and provide detailed images that reduce eye fatigue for longer play. The button panel is configured on the slanted console for easy and comfortable play by both right- and left-handed customers. A handheld control also lets players push for “Play” or repeat the bet without having to lay hands on the control panel.

The cabinet also has a large coin tray with easy access to winnings. Backing up the images is digital stereo sound, thus providing an improved gaming experience.

Atronic’s older e-Motion slot cabinet has side-mounted controls that players can use to move this cabinet’s screen up or down to whatever level is most convenient (and comfortable) for them, even to wheelchair height. The company will still offer new game titles for this cabinet through the end of 2010.

One of the AC Coin ergonomic slot bases that adorn the Borgata hotel-casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

Companies such as AC Coin & Slot Service have been focusing on ergonomic design for a long time.

Playing slots consists of many repetitive motions, including pushing spin buttons, staring at the reels and sitting in the same spot for a long period of time. Making sure the chair works with the base and works with the machine helps ensure that player comfort, and keeps players happy longer, according to AC Coin.

AC Coin introduced an ergonomic slot base at the Borgata hotel-casino when it opened in Atlantic City, and many installations have followed, including most recently Sands Bethlehem casino in Pennsylvania and Flagler Racetrack in Florida.

AC Coin’s ErgoBase takes player comfort to new heights with its ergonomically designed footrest. Incorporated in the design of the base is an area where players can stretch their legs and rest their feet making extended playing time more enjoyable. With the addition of custom-designed end panels, reconfiguring slot floors and introducing new themes to slot floors is accomplished quickly and easily without having to add new stock.