The latest figures to emerge from a range of different studies and surveys underline the fact that the iGaming sector is already huge and looks set to grow in the immediate future. The market was worth $45.8billion in 2017 and this figure is predicted to grow to a massive $94.4 billion by 2024. The current rate of growth, coupled with the technological progress which is helping to fuel the growth, has prompted many experts to predict that the hugely symbolic $1 trillion barriers will be breached before the end of the 2020s and possibly as early as 2026.
The bulk of this growth is powered by two things – the shift in demographics of the people accessing and enjoying iGaming, and the exponential development of the technology which delivers that iGaming experience. If history has taught us anything, it’s that as soon as new digital technology emerges, the people responsible for designing, coding and producing gaming experiences will start to experiment with ways of making that technology work for them and their consumers. Those enjoying iGaming today can look forward to the following emerging technologies forming a part of their playing experience in the years to come:
Many parts of society view facial recognition technology with a degree of suspicion, but it’s possible to put those arguments aside for another day and concentrate on the impact which genuinely effective facial recognition technology could have on iGaming. It easy to imagine a scenario in which 3D scanning lifts the features of players’ faces and uses them to create a lifelike in-game avatar to enhance the playing experience, but developers Intel are taking things even further. The Intel Real Sense 3D camera tracks 78 different points on the human face and is able to recognise emotions including anger, joy and surprise. Feeding data of this kind to the AI of a game would take interactive gameplay to an entirely new level, as the game ‘reads’ the player’s reactions in real-time.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
The driver of Blockchain technology within the iGaming industry can be boiled down to one word – control. It enables the creation of peer to peer systems that cut out the usual middleman of a bank, debit card or standard payment system by exchanging encrypted information on a direct basis. If you’re playing slots, enjoying some time in a live online casino or sampling a game of bingo than the value of blockchain is that it allows you to use cryptocurrency with complete control and anonymity. When data hacks and leaks sometimes involving the personal and financial details of millions of people are still an all too regular occurrence, the chance to experience the thrill of iGaming without worrying about data security is something which is bound to pull in more players from wider demographics. The beginning of this trend can be seen in the number of online casinos which now offer Bitcoin as a payment option, often with bonuses acting as incentives. The potential of blockchain and cryptocurrency to lead to genuinely decentralized iGaming experiences is a key incentive for the big players in the industry to get involved sooner rather than later.
Voice recognition technology has been a reality for some years, and it’s one of those formerly esoteric technical advances which have broken through to become an accepted feature of many ordinary people’s lives. For most people, voice recognition technology begins and ends with Alexa, Siri or Google Home, but game developers are taking the technology, which has now reached a highly advanced state and utilizing it to deliver both more immersive environments and more instinctive gameplay experience.
While video games such as was Mass Effect 3 have been utilizing emerging voice and speech recognition since as long ago as 2012, iGaming is still in the position of playing catch-up. The potential for this technology within the realm of online casinos and iGaming is huge, however, since it opens up the option of controlling factors such as bets, slots, and interaction with live dealers using voice commands. The rise of online casinos has been driven by a combination of convenience- the chance to gamble at any time and anywhere – and the gaming experience itself. Voice recognition technology will take this experience to the next level in terms of intuitive interaction and a strong social element.
As with almost all technology, iGaming is going to be shifting onto the cloud in the future. The days in which players needed to be able to source a physical copy of a game in order to be able to play it will become a thing of the past, as major players like Google and Microsoft launch platforms such as Project Stream and Project xCloud respectively. The ultimate aim of platforms like these is to bring iGaming to any device at any time, with better and faster internet connections delivering flawless performance at all times. The ultimate endpoint will be a truly integrated iGaming experience, in which you can start playing slots on your smartphone on the train coming home from work, pick up on your laptop when you’re at your desk at home and finish in bed that night using your tablet, all presented in a completely seamless manner.
VR and AR
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two entirely different things but are often considered in unison as they both represent ways in which gameplay experience becomes a part of the environment surrounding the player. Virtual Reality iGaming experience is set to be focused around devices such as Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive Pro, while augmented reality, which crashed into the mainstream via Pokemon Go, is the more likely candidate for mainstream acceptance in that it makes use of standard devices such as tablets and mobile phones. The degree to which iGaming increasingly interacts with other forms of entertainment is illuminated by the fact that the top online casinos are amongst those watching AR developments most closely, keen to take advantage of the possibilities they offer for enhanced gameplay. Before exploring the latest online slots, however, it’s probably best to read some advice on what they offer and how to approach them, particularly before thinking of playing for real money.
Some of the most popular slot machines in the market have already been launched as VR versions. These include favorites such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Gonzo’s Quest and Starburst. While this may seem like a niche area of online gambling at present, the inevitable development of the technological hardware – leading to lighter, less obtrusive headsets available at lower prices – should see it entering the mainstream in the next few years.
Although every type of emerging tech has its own pros and cons and offers something different to the realm of iGaming, what they all have in common is a desire, on the part of developers, to push iGaming further toward the realm of entertainment and interaction. Taken to their logical endpoint, these technologies will create a situation in which games, cinema, role-playing and the real world all become increasingly interchangeable.