Are Robot Dealers the Way of the Future?

It sounds like something out of Blade Runner or a Phillip K. Dick novel, but could robots really be the way of the future? It seems a bit of a stretch for our imagination but robots are doing so many things already.

Imagine the moving arms on a car assembly line. They don’t require an operator, they are programmed to fulfil a particular role and they do so flawlessly, without ever taking a break. These automated arms don’t have a face however, so we don’t equate them with completing a human action. As soon as we give something a face we expect it to have human characteristics, and the idea of a machine being human-like brings to mind movies like the Matrix.

Despite all the hype we are long way off from robots taking over the world, but we are not so far off from a robot dealing your Blackjack hand. In fact, a prototype has already been made. Paradise Entertainment has created Min, a humanoid Blackjack dealer who can deal and play a perfect Blackjack hand. Min is currently based in Macau and casinos there are considering taking on versions of her to trial at their tables.

There is a lot of discussion around how players will react to a robot dealer. Min has a perfect ability to deal a hand, and to make appropriate actions based on the dealt cards. However, what creators aren’t sure about is how a player will feel when confronted with a robot. While players have been known to lash out at dealers when given a bad hand, there is a lot of evidence that shows that people have an even greater distrust of machines. It’s uncertain how a player will react under pressure to a machine, especially a humanoid machine.

A study was conducted on a group of 20 people at the University of California, San Diego. These people were chosen specifically because they have limited interaction with robot or android type machines. When shown videos of lifelike machines they became visibly distressed and uncomfortable, and cited the pseudo human faces as the problem.

The reality is that robot dealers would solve a lot of problems. Human error would be reduced, and it would mean lower labour costs. Robot dealers may well be the future, but the way they are designed will affect their reception, and it may take society time to adjust to their presence in places like casinos.