Technology is transforming almost every industry that we can think of, from dating and sports to banking and gaming. Not so long ago, we would have been wary of banking or dating online, but these are now very much the norm. Likewise, online gambling can only exist because of technology, our acceptance of the internet now being a secure place to transact, and the incredible speeds that we expect from broadband and mobile data.
However, the next significant technological advances we can expect to see bring about changes to the best online gambling sites will be down to other rapidly developing technologies; those technologies are Augmented Reality, AR, and Virtual Reality, VR. These two technologies are expected to bring about the most significant changes in online gambling since smartphones transformed mobile iGaming. The aspiration is that the user experience will be transformed, and a fully immersive casino experience will be created.
What is AR?
AR and VR alter the way people experience the world around them and how they interact with that world. AR adds something additional to the existing environment by superimposing a virtual layer over what is there. This can be either visual, audible, or a combination of the two things. For example, AR makes it look or sound as though there is something in your house or your backyard. Most people experimented with one popular AR experience during the Covid-19 lockdown, the Google 3-D animals. People found they could record a tiger walking around their kitchen or have a cow in central New York. Pokémon Go was one of the first commercial applications of the technology, with people collecting the creatures on street corners or from behind bushes in the park.
AR is popular because it does not require any specialized hardware. A smartphone is sufficient. More advanced AR will probably need the user to have specific eyewear, but even this will be much lighter than what is currently required for VR.
What is VR?
VR software is a fully simulated virtual world in which the user is immersed. To enter this world, the user must wear a specialist headset, giving them a three-dimensional view of this parallel world. VR has been heralded as the technology of the future for many years, but access has always been restricted by the price of the hardware and people’s reluctance to cut themselves off from the real world. However, Apple is now looking to launch a headset in 2022 and a slimmer version in 2023. If their previous product innovations are anything to go by, this could be the catalyst for the rapid take up of the technology.
How AR and VR Could Be Used?
If AR and VR are to get traction in online gambling, it will be because they will improve the users’ experience and make it more like a bricks-and-mortar casino experience. The most recent innovation in the online sector has seen users being able to play against live dealers in realistic settings. VR would allow them to enter the live dealer room rather than just experience it through their screen.
The online gambling sector profited hugely during the Covid-19 pandemic when many people tried out online betting and casinos for the first time. However, to retain those customers, the industry will need to ensure that they can compete with land-based casinos in terms of games on offer and the overall social experience. In addition, while many people love the convenience of smartphone apps for placing quick bets or playing on the slots, longer, more engaging games could benefit from advancing technology.
A user with a VR headset could move around inside a virtual venue, move between the tables, and talk to other connected players and the dealer. The inside décor of these virtual casinos could be as elaborate as those of their real-life counterparts. It might even become the norm to have NFT artworks adorning their walls and bartenders mixing virtual cocktails. Land-based casinos have always had more than a touch of glamor to them; the virtual reality ones might follow in that trend. In addition, card games could really benefit from VR as the players could communicate with each other when seated at the table.
AR technology could bring the dealer to you, creating a live dealer in your home or at your office party. We might have imagined that holographs would achieve this, but AR technology seems more likely to deliver it. In addition, users will be able to access options like stats and gambling odds.
It is also possible that AR will be used at brick-and-mortar venues allowing players to access information about jackpots, bonuses, and payout data for slot machines. However, the casinos themselves might be resistant to allowing players access to sensitive data.
Will It Happen?
While it all sounds very exciting, the truth is that VR and AR casinos, either online or in retail settings, are probably still quite a long way off. There is undoubtedly interest amongst investors, operators, and players, but it is still relatively niche due to both the software and hardware requirements. However, where the gaming industry leads, the igaming industry often follows. If this is the case, or if the Metaverse takes off, things could move rapidly in iGaming too.
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