Insights Is virtual reality a step too far?


Anyone who has experienced the totally immersive environments created by virtual reality (VR) technology will understand the attraction and it’s easy to imagine how engaging a VR casino might be to punters looking for a different way to play. However, survey evidence suggests that if the online gambling industry wishes to embrace VR, it may have a significant challenge convincing players to use it. Wiggin recently commissioned ComRes to undertake a consumer survey over a broad demographicto find out what consumers would be most like to use VR for. The top ranking response was 37% for virtual tourism – this compares with 25% who would use it for computer gameplay and only 2% for gambling. In fact gambling was the lowest scoring use, putting into doubt the appeal of VR in relation to online gambling.

We also predict that if VR technologies do achieve market penetration generally, there will be calls for tighter regulation of some of the content that users can access. This is based upon the findings of a separate consumer survey that ComRes also conducted for us. According to this second poll a majority of British adults say there should be restrictions on what people using VR can do (63%). Also, the majority of respondents would be concerned  about losing awareness of the real world around them (69%), a reduced sense of right and wrong (59%) and becoming addicted to VR (58%). Given these results and that gambling is already regarded as an industry requiring tight regulation, we foresee the combination of VR and gambling as posing some very challenging regulatory concerns.

Worrying developments in augmented gameplay

According to a number of commentators VR is very last year and augmented reality (AR) is the big buzz for 2017. AR combines the real world with overlaid content and data, Pokémon Go being a fine example of the technology in
action. Apart from the obvious risks associated with crowds of people looking at a screen rather than where they’re going, the key issues exercising lawyers in the real world relate to data and data privacy, and for gambling companies there is potentially a new dimension to be considered.

AR users will be able to equip themselves with high tech devices and wearables that can combine what they can see with sophisticated apps and vast amounts of data that can analyse the corresponding information and provide data and recommendations.

Armed with this tech, your average punter may very soon no longer be average at all, particularily if it is combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), it could pose a real risk. You may well be aware of the success of the Deepmind AI machine that managed to beat a world master at the ancient game of Go. Go is complex but Deepmind ultimately won with the application of processing power and detailed analysis of the other player’s moves. With alarming speed since Deepmind’s win, AI technology has progressed to the stage where it can beat human players at Poker. This involves the machine learning how to bluff and the Libratus AI machine, devised by Carnegie Mellon University academics, can do just that. Earlier this year Libratus took on four of the world’s best poker players over a 20-day period in a poker tournament in a Pittsburgh casino and convincingly beat them all, netting itself a win of $1.76m. Combine this level of intelligence with AR interfaces and you have a formidable punter.

If gambling companies are going to maintain the house edge they may need to find ways to combat the use of these technologies. Predictably, this will involve a combination of legal protections and technological innovation.