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DISPLAY TECHNOLOGY

products include 22-inch multi-touch displays that can sense up to ten finger touches at a time – a leap ahead of older systems that were limited to two simultaneous touches.

The iPhone factor

Multi-touch will be made a common reality

by the happy coincidence of three factors. First, the popularity of the Apple iPhone and other touchscreen-based smartphones means that a set of informal standards for using fingers on the screen is emerging – for example, enlarging an image by dragging two fingers apart across it. Second, the arrival of smartphones also means consumers are becoming more accustomed to touch interfaces, and will master them more quickly. And third, Microsoft’s Windows 7 – released

late last year – is the first version of the market- leading operating system to support multi- touch (although previous versions supported single-touch interfaces). That alone will mean a dramatic increase in the number of touch- based applications, further increasing familiarity and confidence – and even leading, perhaps, to a growing expectation that when you see something on a screen, you can use your hands to engage with it. Confirms Ian Crosby, Sales and Marketing

Director of touchscreen maker Zytronics: “As user interface design advances in the wake of the iPhone phenomenon, consumer demand for much more advanced touch capabilities such as gesture recognition, multi-touch detection, and ever faster touch response is growing. This in turn is driving the need for better touch controller solutions which can support these new features in all form factors.” However, not all gaming suppliers are

approaching touch – whether single or multi – in the same way. A range of technologies exists, each well suited to certain applications and less ideal for others. Suzo Happ, for example, is European

distributor for Elo TouchSystems, an American

firm which claims to be the world’s largest producer of touchscreens. Its units, ranging in size from 12 to 32 inches diagonally (as screen size is usually measured), employ different touch technologies: some use acoustic pulse recognition (APR), others in Elo’s IntelliTouch/SecureTouch vandal-resistant lines are based on surface acoustic wave (SAW) principles, while still others incorporate capacitive touchscreen technology. These all work in different ways to detect the user’s touch on the screen. Says Suzo Happ’s spokesman John Carroll,

“acoustic pulse recognition is the latest newcomer in the market, and is available exclusively from Elo. This all-glass touch technology not only delivers image quality – as it is made of pure glass – but also allows players to hold their hands on the screen while playing. “If it would be required to have, say, 20

people holding their hands on the screen while people would still be playing, that would be possible. APR allows a true flat design and is a great technology for sports betting applications, for which people typically use their pens as a touch device. “Multi-touch capability has also been added

to the surface acoustic wave technology – a proven technology in the gaming market. The name is IntelliTouch Plus and this touch technology has met all the Additional Qualification (AQ) testing requirements established by Microsoft for Windows 7 multi- touch interactivity.” Not all vendors are quite so bullish on the

imminence of multi-touch applications, though. “Multi-touch is on its way,” agrees Polly Wiseman of casino product maker Eurocoin, “but due to being linked with Windows 7 technology it will be a slow introduction, it will be based on specific games – I doubt we will see anything for two years.”

Tough one

Whenever multi-touch goes mainstream, the

displays in each showing different content. Gaming Support’s Pro package still needs a

separate dedicated workstation in each casino to manage the media network. Operators of multiple venues, therefore, can opt for a more centralised system – JackpotJunction XL, which combines technology from Alpha Video and digital signage software specialist Scala with Gaming Support’s own. The interface for this is Web-based, so

theoretically a global casino operator could run a digital signage network across all its properties from anywhere with an Internet connection. Gaming Support calls it “the

world’s only wide-area gaming-enabled digital signage system”, and as far as we’re aware that’s a fair assessment. Venues considering a digital signage

network may well find that given the number of variables involved the best way to proceed is a formal Request for Proposals, allowing potential vendors to describe how they can meet the project’s requirements. But before going to this stage it’s worth

making informal contact with as many suppliers as possible to get a feel for norms and trends in terms of features and operations. And indeed, businesses with less ambitious

secret of success in casinos will not lie only in the design of the touch application – for the gaming environment puts special demands on the hardware itself. General Touch, for instance, produces a 22-

inch touchscreen monitor aimed at gaming users – and some of its specifications illustrate the very different requirements of gaming machines and public information displays such as digital signage screens. The viewing angle from which the screen can be seen adequately is just 89 degrees to the left and right, but that’s not an important deficiency, because where there’s only one person interacting with the screen, they will likely be standing right in front of it. A more significant feature is the 16ms response time (the rapidity with which the image can change) – fast response is essential for interactive applications. The firm, which makes LCD touchscreens from

6.4 to 29 inches, also builds in water-proofing and dust-proofing. And indeed, one of the biggest issues for casinos installing any screen- based system is resistance to abuse – whether that’s just the cumulative effect of tens of thousands of hours of touching, or whether it’s deliberate vandalism. As Eurocoin’s Wiseman says, there’s a risk of “damage when people lose money – they tend to take it out on the display”. But screen vendors, aware of the size of the

gaming market, have taken steps to address this. Says Suzo Happ’s Carroll: “Elo has touch solutions against this. For example, it passes the UL-60950 ball-drop test on the 1939L SecureTouch touchmonitor, using a half-kilo steel ball dropped from a height of 1.3 meters onto the touchscreen glass without breakage. Elo’s popular technologies for gaming have no issue with vandalism – they even work with deep scratches from diamonds.”

The final frontier

Another issue facing all casino screen

deployments – whether interactive or not – is space, says Carroll. “There are space limitations

plans may find that this approach leads them straight to a workable solution. The most time-effective way to quickly make

contact with all the serious vendors is through attending one of the major trade shows servicing the screen media sector. The best opportunity to do this in Europe during 2010 will be at Screen Media Expo Europe at Earls Court in London (5-6 May), which offers the added bonus of conferences, seminars and workshops to provide a two-day crash course in digital signage basics. wFor more information, visit

ww.screenevents.co.uk.

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