During a recent trip to Las Vegas (yes, for business), I was able to visit the iBar at the Rio. It recently installed six Microsoft Surface machines to add to the social experience at the bar (press release). This was the first time I’d seen a Surface up close.
For a Monday night, there were quite a few people hovering around the area waiting for one of the Surface machines to become available. We found one, sat down, and started experimenting. Here are the games/apps that we played with.
This app allows you to scroll through various adult beverages and select one to be ordered directly from the bar. You can also experiment mixing your own. Overall, it worked pretty well, although we had to get used to the navigation. It was the first application we played with, so I think we were also still figuring out the touch sensitivity and the allowance for multi-touch (the two of us were touching the screen at the same time, and I think that messed up some of our menu choices).
This application is basically a YouTube viewer. You can search for videos by keyword, browse by rating, or browse by most recent. Your search results appear as postcard-looking thumbnails that can be rotated, resized, and played. We found it pretty easy to lose track of time with this application (isn’t that the point?), and spent most of our time watching videos.
This app provides a series of games, most notably "High Roller" bowling, pinball, and Last Call (a memory game). We bowled a few frames and moved on. BTW, here’s a hint for the bowling game if you want to run up your score. As you’re getting ready to bowl, you can run your fingers on the standing pins, you can knock a lot of them over before you even bowl. (You can also use the same technique against your opponent, moving his pins away from the ball.)
This app allows patrons at one Surface machine to interact with patrons at other machines. There are video cameras pointed at each Surface table, so you can look at other Surface users in the bar. The interactions available include chat, zooming the video camera, taking and sending pictures, or send predefined phrases (read: pick-up lines) or words (remember the magnetic words you can put on your fridge? This is the virtual version of that).
There are a couple other applications that were available, but we didn’t really check them out. They looked to be a "virtual vegas" tour, showing attractions, shows, and other sights.
My overall impression is that this has some great social potential. Since there were only six tables at the iBar, there weren’t a lot of choices for interaction. A much more compelling social experience: Someday when Surface machines are installed at other Harrah’s properties around the country (or world), network them together and allow the Flirt app to work across those properties. The fun and interactivity dynamic will be dramatically different when someone in Las Vegas "flirts" with someone in Atlantic City.
Oh, and one last thing – it’s with a heavy heart that I must confess that we crashed a couple of the apps – each several times.
On the bright side, there were no GPF’s or Blue Screens of Deaths. Rather Surface just mentioned that there was a problem, killed the failed app and restarted. Not a huge distraction for a social user who would probably have a decent count of adult beverages coursing through their system to begin with.
The flirt app has the most promise, integrating with webcams and other Surface machines. If it can scale without crashing, Flirt will be a great draw for many Harrah’s properties. We didn’t "flirt" too much – not just because we’re married, but because most of the tables were occupied by other guys…