blackjack 1Multitouch user interfaces seem to be spreading everywhere since Apple introduced the iPhone a couple of years ago. The latest example is this prototype of a BlackJack table with an interactive display.

The table is the brainchild of the industrial designers at Moto Development Group, a product design firm that has created all sorts of designs from the Zune HD music player to the Pure Digital Flip video camcorders. It is showing off this multitouch BlackJack table today at the Global Gaming Expo, a trade show for the gambling industry that starts today in Las Vegas.

blackjack 2The prototype isn’t meant to be a working product, and it’s based on multitouch tabletop technology that Moto first showed off a couple of years ago. But it’s just the sort of showcase technology that the gambling industry likes to use these days to snare new players. Besides BlackJack, the table can be used to play Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. The tables dispense with physical objects such as cards and chips; at the same time, it can be used to make the play more efficient, intuitive and accurate. To deal cards, for instance, a dealer slides the virtual cards across the table using a hand gesture. A player makes bets by dragging virtual chips across the table.

“We’re showing that large, multitouch screens remain interesting platforms for design,” said J. Daniell Hebert, chief executive of San Francisco-based Moto, which has been around since 1991. “This shows how we can use it in furniture and turn an ordinary surface into an interactive display.”

The table uses a resistive multitouch sensor, but it doesn’t have the more expensive optical sensing technology used by Microsoft in its Surface interactive tables. Hebert said the company considered the Surface technology but decided to create its own software and hardware to show off this application. It isn’t clear if anyone will adopt it and take it into production. A casino vendor would likely need lots of custom changes to use it.

The table has a round display that is touch-sensitive and can be used to deal decks of virtual cards. If players put their hands over a set of cards, they can see what cards they have and shield them from prying eyes at the same time. If the player takes his or her hand away, the cards return to a face-down view. Hebert said the company has been testing design concepts for these tables at recent Maker Faire do-it-yourself shows.

The software is programmed in Java and uses open source graphics libraries.

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