You drop your coin in and pull the handle, the wheels spin and finally settle, and sadly you don’t win the jackpot.
But instead of the game being over, an icon appears and says “click to win a prize”.
So you click the icon, and the casino disappears in a wash of colors and you feel like somehow hitting the icon made you into a character in a video game that is literally being transported to a brand new world.
Once the colors stop spinning you find yourself outside and with a pair of six guns, one in each of your hands.
Somehow you have become a Cowboy in an old western town.
A digital sign appears and flashes in front of you saying “shoot six bandits in one minute and win a $1,000.”
Bandits mysteriously appear and you start aiming and shooting.
Is this a game or is it real?
Is this a casino or a video game?
As crazy as this sounds, in ten years this could very well be how most people experience Casinos, often from the comfort of their own homes.
Virtual Reality will take what we know now as online casinos and add creative game programming, wearable technology, and VR headsets to allow us to explore gambling in an entirely different way.
Yes, in the near future, we will be able to walk through fancy (even luxuriious) virtual casinos while wearing our VR headsets, finish up our gaming, take off the headsets and find ourselves sitting back at home in our PJ’s.
It probably sounds like science fiction, but it is much closer to reality than you might imagine.
Facebook has already invested billions in buying Oculus Rift (maker of futuristic VR headsets) and is already hard at work programming an experience that feels like you are being teleported from one virtual experience into another (yes, in an attempt to create the real feeling of using a Star Trek style teleporter).
People have already reported being able to virtually climb Mount Everest, visit shipwrecks under the sea, and engage in horse races using virtual reality headsets. New games and experiences are being recorded and/or digitized most likely as I write this. I even read of one ocean based VR game where a life sized whale swims right by you.
We are truly entering a new era of digital and virtual wonders.
And casinos have been working hard to try to “gamify” the gambling experience too. One of the main barriers to adoption of casino gaming by millennials is that they are used to much more immersive and socially engaging gaming environments.
Currently, brick and mortar and online casinos try to make traditional formats for gambling more appealing to millennials by adding layers of gamification into the programs for the games that already exist.
If you have played slots in vegas recently, for instance, you are already familiar with easter eggs being built into game play on modern slot machines. Side-games and bonus rounds have become part of the core experience of playing the slots. There is no reason to believe that these side games and bonus rounds will not be rooted in digital or real exciting virtual experiences in the near future.
We Have The Tools
All you will need is a virtual reality headset, some kind of joystick device, and possibly some biofeedback or wearable technologies (to help make the experiences even more real).
We have already experienced a few generations of wearable technology. Most everyone will remember the commercial disaster that was Google Glass but recently the Apple Watch and the Fitbit have proved that people will use wearable devices when they have proper incentives (like even more exciting gameplay).
And wearable devices can function as biofeedback devices as well.
Biofeedback has been defined as “the technique of using monitoring devices to furnish information regarding an autonomic bodily function, such as heart rate or blood pressure, in an attempt to gain some voluntary control over these functions.”
Biosensors already exist that can accurately record our boredom, stress, and excitement using non-intrusive techniques. Every year we see the science of connecting the brain to external electronic devices improve (like the technology that helps people more efficiently use prosthetic limbs through mental commands).
Game developers are already taking advantage of these new technologies. There is already a VR game that can sense your fear and adjust gameplay appropriately.
Not All Science Fiction
One of the promises of virtual reality is that it will allow people to visit parts of the world and see things that they might otherwise never get to see.
So, another possibility is that online virtual casinos will enable each of us to visit far-away locations like Monte Carlo from our bedrooms.
We may be able to saunter into one of the casinos like James Bond, and play baccarat at a live dealer table surrounded by other “world-traveling virtual visitors.” Maybe we can play in virtual casino areas constructed around actual jungles or in particularly interesting areas of the world.
Or maybe, we will be able to visit specific periods of history. Maybe we will play cards in the back-room of a virtual speakeasy designed to look like Prohibition era Chicago where everyone’s words are run through an algorithm that makes everyone sound like 20’s gangsters.
And, the technology already exists to make virtual card rooms feel and act just like real card rooms. You can already sit down at virtual casino poker tables, see the mannerisms and hear the voices of all the players around you, and you can even talk to the dealer and hear his or her responses clearly.
When I started playing poker, I played mostly online, so when I finally made it to Vegas and entered my first live tournament, it took hours to get used to the differences in play between online and face-to-face play.
Virtual Reality will smooth the differences over between these two worlds. You will be able to enter tournaments in virtual card rooms that will look and feel like you are playing in a real casino. If you play well, you will feel like you are at a televised final table. And, just like at a real televised tournament, your family and friends can sit in the audience and watch the game play.
One of the real barriers to getting new players “in the game” is that playing games for money can be really intimidating. Virtual casinos will allow new players to sit and watch the professionals play, learning all of the tricks by watching the real experts playing in real-time.
Every single one of us can watch thousands of hours of On Demand poker played on television now, but what virtual casinos will let us do is watch the professionals play all of the other games from blackjack to paigo poker.
And virtual reality could even take some of the sting out of losing. I know I have felt pretty bad after playing a hand perfectly at the poker table only to lose on the turn. What if the virtual casino recognized statistically improbable losses and rewarded you with an exciting bonus experience? I know that I certainly would have felt better if I had been transported to a virtual roller coaster right after I experienced brutal bad beats.
No matter what comes out of this new era of gaming, given what is already being developed, the future of online casinos is bound to be amazing.