Microsoft Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment Inc. introduced a high-tech interactive bar table Wednesday that lets patrons order drinks, watch YouTube videos, play touch-screen games and flirt with each other.
For Harrah's, which wooed Wall Street years ago, in part, because of its innovative customer rewards program, the tables offer a new way to track it customers' habits and behaviors.
"Of all the goodies up our sleeves lately, this is one of the most dramatic," Tim Stanley, chief information officer of Harrah's, told The Associated Press. "The range of opportunities are fairly limitless."
The six rectangular tables with built-in 30-inch flat screens using Microsoft Surface technology were installed in a lounge at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, with custom applications built for Harrah's.
A spokewoman for Microsoft said the units sold for a base price of $10,000.
A program called Mixologists lets patrons play bartender by creating and ordering concoctions of whatever cocktails and mixers they click on. The system is able to remember users' drink orders and, one day, may be able to offer customers the same drink at other Harrah's locations, such as when they play a slot machine.
Another program lets users watch YouTube videos, either by searching or choosing from a list of popular videos. Harrah's officials said they reached a licensing deal with YouTube on Wednesday.
The table also includes a program called Flirt, which lets customers sitting at any such table in the lounge see and chat with each other, take and e-mail pictures and even trade cell phone numbers.
"In a different point in my life, I might use Flirt a lot," Stanley said.
Other programs let users play video games or get information about restaurants, shows, nightclubs and other Harrah's attractions.
Pete Thompson, Microsoft's general manager of surface computing, said the table's computer was designed so businesses can customize
it to meet their needs.
"This is very open. There's no scripting," Thompson said.
"People feel a sense of freedom."
Thompson said the computer uses a camera behind the screen to detect hand movements, which become visible to the camera like silhouettes once users press their fingers on the table. That lets the table display high resolution images but still function as a table, he said. Unlike a typical computer monitor, you can still set drinks on it.
Surface was first put into use in April by AT&T Inc. at its wireless stores. The 22 tables at a handful of stores are programmed to recognize eight wireless phones - but not Microsoft's competitor Apple Inc.'s iPhone - and give information about features.
Harrah's and two other companies, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and T-Mobile USA, delayed launching their versions of Surface by several months.
Stanley said Harrah's had to adjust its infrastructure to take advantage of the table's capabilities.
Other applications are either in the works or in development, he said, and the company plans to use versions of the computer and link them throughout its properties.
Stanley said the Surface computers could eventually be tied to its Total Rewards program and possibly offer new ways gamble. The sophisticated Rewards program tracks users' gambling habits, which
Harrah's uses to learn more about its individual customers.
Thompson said the tables for Starwood and T-Mobile were still in development. He said he expected other companies to begin using the
tables by next year.