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Intel partnering with Caesars, UNLV at Las Vegas innovation hub

Updated October 31, 2019 - 3:17 pm

UNLV and Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s soon-to-open Black Fire Innovation research and technology hub has caught the eye of technology giant Intel.

On Tuesday morning, Caesars announced Intel as a new partner for the facility, set to open in January. The California-based company will provide technology and computing resources, along with research and internship opportunities for students and other partners, according to a Tuesday morning press release from Caesars.

“Intel powers every major operation in the world, so partnering with Intel made a lot of sense for us,” said John Celona, vice president of business innovation and technology strategy for Caesars Entertainment, in a video attached to the release.

A 43,000-square-foot space at UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park, Black Fire Innovation offers replica integrated resort labs. Within them, students, entrepreneurs and partners can test and create concepts that aim to “change the landscape of hospitality,” according to the release.

The facility’s core research focuses on using emerging technologies such as blockchain, data science, robotic automation, artificial intelligence and the internet of things to enhance the customer experience in the hospitality industry. Celona said technology and mentorship from the hub’s partners could help students and entrepreneurs take their concepts to market.

They “often see these market opportunities but have no way to navigate the barriers to entry, especially in the highly regulated gaming industry,” he said via email. “That’s where Black Fire Innovation comes in, driving collaboration between all of our partners to evaluate these new concepts, (and) rally the necessary resources to pilot them, and bring them to the guest as soon as possible.”

Zach Miles, UNLV associate vice president for economic development and president of the UNLV Research Foundation, said the new collaboration will help accelerate research and development on the site and “push the boundaries” of hospitality innovations.

“Students don’t have the same preconceived notions (in the hospitality industry). They’re able to think outside the box, especially for an integrated resort,” he said. They can let the industry know, “‘Here’s what you can do to attract more customers my age.’”

Intel will take up residence at the facility’s co-working space, where experts can mentor and guide student interns and partners on course curriculum development.

The partnership could help diversify Las Vegas’ growing economy by bringing in a variety of businesses to Nevada, according to Miles.

“We’re trying to drive engagements with corporations earlier on in our students’ academic careers so they’re able to experience what they’re actually going to be using their classroom education on,” Miles said in the video. “Having various opportunities for them to (intern) at Intel, at Caesars, at other organizations, allows them to stay in the valley.”

Rick Hack, head of media and entertainment partnerships at Intel, said the hub’s focus resonated with the business.

“Intel’s relationship with Black Fire was important to us because it covered the area of esports, AI, immersive media, hospitality,” he said in the video.

UNLV already had ties with Intel prior to this announcement. In 2014, the university partnered with local data center-operator Switch and Intel to bring one of the fastest supercomputers in the world to Las Vegas. The machine has since supported big data research in physics, astronomy, neuroscience, health care and hospitality.

There’s more to come for Black Fire, Miles said, hinting at other, similar-sized partnership announcements in the coming months.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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