TECH TALK - It sounds like something out of the next Star Wars installment, but instead of a galaxy far, far away, robotic force multipliers are the latest addition to a casino just a few hours’ drive up I-5 from LA.
Rolling Hills Casino lies in Corning on the West Side Highway just beyond Sacramento. The casino has recently hit the local headlines by taking on two robots created by Richtech Robotics in – where else – Las Vegas, to share the load with human waiting staff in the restaurant. But if you’re expecting something from I-Robot, or perhaps a waiter akin to Data from Star Trek, prepare to be underwhelmed.
Assisting with mundane tasks
Technology has brought all sorts of wonders into our lives over the past 20 years, including capabilities that we could scarcely have imagined 40 years ago. Yet some of the advances that futurists were predicting back in the 1960s and 70s are still works in progress. Virtual Reality is one and robotics is another.
The robots in use at Rolling Hills are cutting-edge in their way. Designated Matradee-X, the robots can deliver food to tables and also bus used plates, glasses and cutlery back to the kitchen. Staff simply load the robot with plates and tell it which table to serve. It navigates using sensors set in the ceiling. Staff say it is like having an extra set of hands – although as Matradee-X has four shelves, it is more accurately four extra pairs of hands per robot.
Casinos at the forefront of innovation
It is not the first time we have seen casinos pushing the boundaries of innovation and it won’t be the last. Casinos were among the first adopters of cryptocurrency, and today, Bitcoin is a popular choice among US online gamblers. The gambling industry continues to explore ways to make its online offerings slick and seamless using blockchain technology.
Out in the world of bricks and mortar, will we soon be greeted by robotic dealers at the blackjack and three card poker tables? The answer is “probably not.” There’s little doubt that such tasks could be programmed, but this is a great example of one of those occasions when the fact that you could do something doesn’t mean you should.
The popularity of live dealer games online demonstrates that people tend to prefer the human touch over automated games. Of course, robots could carry out other functions, such as checking guests in and out for health and safety purposes and verification that guests meet legal gambling age requirements according to the appropriate US state rules on how old you have to be to gamble.
Despite the practical usefulness of the Matredee-X robots at the Rolling Hills Casino, experts say the use of robots in service environments has more curiosity value than anything else. Renowned robotics scholar and author Yulia Frumer says they are “mostly a gimmick” and that for now, at least, it is still easier and cheaper for businesses to employ and train humans.