Screen Technology

3M We spoke with Dave Williams, Sales Manager, EMEA, 3M Touch Systems UK Ltd about the company’s touchscreen offering.?

Casino International: What’s the core of the company’s present offering?
Dave Williams: At ICE we were focussing on our large-format multi-touch displays. We had a 46” interactive table really aimed at entertainment activities running some fun gaming coaching or training software. It was a piece of software developed for Genting Casinos we were showcasing, as well as some fun applications to engage multi-touch, multi-player interaction. In this instance it was for use in a casino environment, aimed at training people in advance how to play Blackjack, Roulette and the like before they go to the live tables. So rather than being unsure and worried about approaching a table to play, the aim is to make it a more conducive environment for them to learn the game before they go and spend money on the live tables.
It’s PCT – Protected Capacitive Technology, with a flat-front service like an iPad or smartphone; this means there is no bezel, as many touchscreen technologies require historically to ‘hide’ some of the technology. A flat-front surface creates – apart from a nice aesthetic – a wipe-clean, spill-resistant, practical solution as well as providing a flat surface. It’s a film-based technology so should provide better optics than some of the alternative touchscreen solutions; it doesn’t reduce the life-span of the screen, because the film – the actual touch layer – is underneath the glass, projecting the touch field through the front chemically strengthened surface. 
 
CI: Why is there a surge in the use of curved touchscreens?
DW: Touch tends to mimic what the display market is doing, so if display manufacturers have developed the ability to deliver curved LCD, then curved touchscreens will be required. Curved touchscreens are coming into the mainstream display market now, with LCD TVs being sold commercially; there has to be some driver that means the perception of the viewer is improved by the fact that the screen is curved. It’s filtering through into the gaming market – a traditional digital gaming machine has at least two displays, some have even four screens. What a large, curved display does is gives you the chance to eliminate three of those, or at least the majority of them and have one single sheet of glass that curves in a format that is conducive to the viewing angle of the user, and it still needs touch interactivity so we developed a touch solution that meets the requirements of that curvature on the screen. Whether the large screen is cost-effective, the jury is still out but it gives designers the chance to play with the aesthetics and look and feel of the cabinet, and to produce a new design.
We provide two of the leading cabinet manufacturers with this type of screen.
Making curved glass is not easy and it adds complexity and cost into the process. At this point, they are certainly more expensive at this point in their development. If it’s for single touch it’s obviously simpler than doing it for multi-touch applications, it just depends what they want the end user to do, as to the complexity of the touchscreen and electronics.
If we look at the average size of a gaming display ten years ago it was around 15’ to 17” – that’s moved to 19’ to 22”, though up to 24” is more common now. The screens are changing from landscape to portrait, and going even larger, up to 42” which changes the scope and flexibility of the cabinet construction. We have to make sure we have a touch solution that meets the design requirements for the particular display the manufacturer has chosen.
As far as PCT is concerned, the key is understanding what drives the requirement for a PCT solution. The flat surface is a major benefit as it means the look and feel of a cabinet can be changed, it doesn’t have to be a traditional-looking machine, the touchscreen can be part of the front of the chassis for a smoother, sleeker looking cabinet. 

 CI: What’s the next big thing? Is it multi-touch?
DW: Gaming has been a little conservative in embracing multi-touch. Touch screens have always been about button replacement, which might mean a single touch solution to do that. To The whole user experience is probably going to have to change as the traditional gamer demographic matures into those that have grown up with touchscreens and video games, and expect a more spohisticated interaction experience with the display.
It’s partly about time, the time it takes to create the feature and user interface richness within the software content of the games themselves. There could be 20 or 30 game options on a cabinet, creating software for all of those variants that makes good use of a multi-touch surface other than being just a button replacement is a tall order. It needs a different level of software development. If you’ve spent a long time developing bingo, roulette, or a slot, you’ll have small buttons you press every so often during the game. It’s quite different to creating a screen which is all about customer engagement, where you want them to put both hands on it, all ten fingers to play a game or a bonus round. It means a whole new different genre of software, and that’s what I think is taking the time. People who adopt the technology love it but creating software content that maximises the potential of the technology is not an easy job. Some of the high-end Bally games may be leading the way in terms of this new level of player engagement. Game developers are getting there, though.

 CI: What is 3M’s focus going forward?

DW: Maintaining our core traditional touch solution, which is a single touch product that is still the predominant technology used in the gaming market;  remains a focus. Key new opportunities are in engaging with current gaming customers in new emerging markets to look at adopting projected capacitive technology as a solution to enable different designs and feature sets in the cabinet, as well as move toward a larger, more immersive multi-touch solutions where they can engage more than one player on a machine or a number of players on a table or a different format. 

Zytronic Ian Crosby, Sales and Marketing Director, Zytronic spoke with Casino International about the business, and the future of display technology…?

Casino International: What’s the core of Zytronic’s business?
Ian Crosby: We are a touchscreen manufacturer – the technology type we produce is called “projected capacitive”, which is the kind you would find on a tablet or smartphone. The difference with what we’ve developed– and this comes down to a mix of manufacturing, materials, the controller electronics and the firmware behind it – is that we can offer a different set of benefits compared to what you might find in typical consumer device touchscreens. Three key attributes set us apart. One is the inherent strength of the product, because we can make it using very thick toughened glass as the touch surface – it’s usually 3 or 4mm thick, though we have produced some that are 20mm thick. In consumer devices they tend to be as thin as possible, for lightness. The second difference is the scalability. We can produce anything from 5” screen size to about 85”, and with a fairly minimal investment in our factory we could take that over 100” if there was a demand. If you look at other touch technologies, they tend to be more limited in size. The third difference is our ability to customise even low volumes. This is down to the manufacturing process we use – it’s not a mass produced “semiconductor” style of touch sensor production requiring tooling and standardised designs. Although highly automated, we produce each screen individually in our facility – this gives us the ability to make a one-off design for a customer. It’s also perfect for those that need to make a variety of prototypes or don’t have high-volume projects.

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CI: How important is the gaming market for you?
IC: Gaming and entertainment applications has really grown for us over the last six or seven years. Drivers have been gaming hardware manufacturers desire to use larger displays and differentiated designs. Turn the clock back a few years and most screens used were basic 15 or 17” designs, with a 4:3 format, mounted in bezels. Now at an exhibition you see ever larger displays – over 20” is not uncommon now. The formats and designs are becoming more unusual and more eye catching too, so there is a demand for more customisation. But it’s still not mass production market, so there is a need for a touch manufacturer capable of doing this customisation at relatively low volumes. That’s also been a contributor to our success.

CI: Have you noticed any trends in the industry?
IC: One of the trends we’ve seen and reacted to is around multitouch. Another which is now emerging is the use of extremely customised screens, like curved displays. 
When we started producing touchscreens 14 years ago, the requirement was for very simple, single-touch type operation – making selection on a screen, that kind of thing. But the consumer electronics manufacturers have pushed the boundaries of what a touchscreen can do when coupled with good user interface software; and people now even expect screens in self-service and industrial applications to react the same way as the device in their pocket – with smooth, responsive gestures rather than mere button selections. This means the touchscreen needs to detect and track more touch points simultaneously, a function generally referred to as “multitouch”.
We launched our first multitouch product, capable of detecting two touches, in 2006 – it’s still available and satisfies most simple gestures like flicks and zooms. But casino gaming is leaning toward more immersive experiences and even multi-player applications that require more sophisticated touch detection. Imagine a table application – you might have four or five people interacting with a virtual card game or roulette – so six people moving chips or cards around could mean 20 or more touch points being tracked simultaneously. Two years ago we launched our first full multitouch product which can detect up to 40 separate points at once. The manufacturing process is still low volume “friendly” and can be customised. The screens can also be made with very thick glass so it’s still applicable to this kind of public environment, but it delivers the kind of touch experience that people love from their personal devices. 
I mentioned the emergence of curved displays earlier – and more display manufacturers are starting to make them available, so the next logical step is to add a touchscreen. Because we do everything in-house; producing the touchscreens from scratch, cutting, printing and even bending glass – we’re increasingly receiving requests for curved touchscreens from equipment manufacturers. I think Bally were one of the first out of the blocks with this trend when they launched the stunning looking “Wave” slot machine last year, and I’m sure that most of the other big players are also looking at the technology. It allows a more organic kind of game design, with less angles and a flowing interface that really involves the player. 
Something I haven’t seen yet though, is a wrap-around “landscape” screen for a truly immersive experience. Nobody has yet done a screen that wraps around the player – could one be coming, I wonder?

CI: What makes Zytronic unique to its customers?
IC: Of course we are in competition with leading touchscreen makers like 3M but the benefit we bring to equipment designers, is in being able to create the unique, differentiating, player interfaces. We have never set out to dominate the gaming market in terms of volume touchscreen manufacture – I think we’d be naïve to think we could do so. Instead, we try to play to our strengths – offering durable, reliable, customised solutions in low volumes that allow our customers to create unique player interfaces. That’s the benefit we bring, and were our future lies

Elo Mike Sigona, Regional Sales Manager (formerly Gaming Market Manager) Elo explained the company’s ethos to Casino International – and that they not only invented the touchscreen, but have some very exciting developments coming through

Casino International: What’s the core of Elo’s business?
Mike Sigona: We’ve been in business about 40 years and we invented the touchscreen, which is quite an accomplishment if you think about the ubiquity of touchscreens today. I’m proud to work for Elo which has been credited by Smithsonian Magazine as creating one of the top ten inventions of the past century. We have the most patents on touch by far and are the leading innovator in touch around the world. We work in many markets – medical, industrial, products for banking, kiosks, airports, ticketing, vending… Gaming is a facet of our business. 
We make about half a million all-touch monitors per year; we are one of the highest producers of touchscreens and produce them even for many of our competitors. Our main focus is on commercial-grade products – we don’t make consumer products. Our customers want commercial grade products and they don’t want change. In consumer stores, every six months what’s on display changes completely. Our customers want only periodical change when there is a compelling reason to change. That’s what we do with our gaming products, we know they will design a cabinet with our screen in and want to make it that way for years to come. It’s about supporting the customer with what they want; it’s also about stability.
For gaming customers that is very important – it’s such a long cycle to develop a product. It has to be designed, built, tested, certify it, then it’s in the field for ten years, you need parts, replacements… That’s our strength.
 
CI: What’s new for Elo then? Being the innovators that created the technology you’ve set the bar quite high…
MS: We made a major breakthrough in gaming some years ago when we introduced our original iTouch technology. We’re launching a new generation of iTouch now, actually. The original allowed touch directly on CRT screens; no overlay, perfect picture quality, unbreakable and cost less, and three of the top five manufacturers in the world adopted it as it was really revolutionary… Then the market moved to LCDs, so it’s a box with a touchscreen on it, it’s not so complicated, we make them in many sizes like many others. But now we are launching something really revolutionary again: our new generation iTouch offers two things the market has been asking for, for some time. One is a flat solution, a true, flat solution. Virtually every machine at ICE had an indentation on the screen border because the edge of the touchscreen – SAW or capacitive –is really not attractive, so it must be covered up with a frame or bezel. But now we’re delivering two true-flat technologies, not just one: First a multi-touch projected capacitive technology, just like in an iPad. While this technology is obviously not unique to us, it is a great technology but can be quite expensive in the large sizes common in gaming. And gaming monitors are always growing, and the cost of this technology goes up exponentially in larger sizes. So we now also offer that same, flat concept with a different technology – our Surface Acoustic Wave [SAW] technology, one of the leading technologies used in gaming. We have made it for almost 30 years, but what we can do now is make it true flat like an iPad. It can be integrated perfectly flat in your slot machine. It’s also backwards compatible in software, which makes it even more attractive. Designers can now achieve what they want – true flat. It’s the same design concept with our two technologies, but SAW works out much more affordably.
Graphics quality is also an issue for games designers. People want full HD displays and invest like crazy to rewrite software in super hi-res, with fantastic graphics because it’s what younger players expect. If you’re using traditional capacitive technology from Elo or our competitors, you are destroying your picture quality with the capacitive overlay. It changes the colours, its metallic coatings are highly reflective so you have to add anti-glare which makes the image look fuzzy… A game is usually meticulously developed on a monitor without touch. Then when they see it in a cabinet for the first time with a capacitive touchscreen overlay, they have to wonder what’s happened to their game! You can recognise touchscreens from a distance at exhibitions because if a cabinet has two screens, the upper one is usually not a touchscreen and the difference in quality is easily discernible. Let’s face it — capacitive technology is just not up to the optical standard of Full HD. With our new true-flat iTouch SAW technology, the touchscreen glass is perfectly clear. It’s exactly the same as the clear glass you would see on a non-touch-screen, so the full HD is preserved and the touch and non-touch monitors both match and look fantastic. So we can now preserve full HD quality in a flat concept. We’re offering people true flat designs to attract the players and full HD quality to keep them playing – and, importantly, at around the same price as our customers have always paid. We believe this is going to change the industry; it is patented technology, and it again shows our leadership in development and technology. So whether you are thinking of moving to PCAP, or prefer to keep your costs in line with iTouch, we have both technologies in identical form factors. We think in a few years at exhibitions, you will see all the screens are flat, and most with the perfect picture quality of iTouch. 
It’s good for the manufacturers and it’s good for the players – and it’s not increasing the prices, which is critically important today.

 

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