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The bar at their fingertips

Harrah’s Entertainment wants to make it easier for you to "flirt" with that cute guy or gal across the bar.

If you don’t see anyone that interests you, how about watching some YouTube videos, or playing computer games, or maybe even taking a virtual tour of one of Harrah’s local resorts?

Those are just some of the things that customers can do when they visit the iBar at the Rio, thanks to a pilot program launched Wednesday night.

Harrah’s installed six wireless touch-screen computer tables that will let bar customers perform a number of functions, including viewing and sending messages to customers at one of the other Microsoft Surface tables.

The tables use a computer with a camera behind the screen that can detect hand movements when users press their fingers on the tabletop.

In all, Harrah’s developed six applications to work on the bar tables, which sport 30-inch flat screens. The tabletop computers were developed by its partner, Microsoft Corp., which is teaming up with other companies to develop software applications for the system.

"This is new in about every definition of new you can think of," Harrah’s Chief Innovation Officer Tim Stanley said of the software applications.

Harrah’s officials, however, believe that the "Flirt" program, which lets customers take and e-mail pictures and trade cell phone numbers, will be best-received by customers.

"In a different point in my life, I might use Flirt a lot," Stanley said.

Other applications allow customers to watch YouTube, play computer games such as bowling or pinball, tour six of Harrah’s properties in Las Vegas and watch video promotions of its shows. The tables will offer only one commercial application: Customers can order drinks through the system.

The "Mixologists" program will create and order cocktails with mixers the customers click on. The system can remember users’ drink orders.

Stanley said there are many possibilities for future applications, including gaming.

Other possibilities include turning the computer into a virtual concierge and incorporating the company’s Total Rewards customer card program into the system.

Customers could soon be able to order food, book reservations at restaurants or buy show tickets.

Harrah’s will be testing the tables for 60 days to 120 days, to see how customer-friendly the system is before deciding whether to roll out more applications.

"Do customers get it, can they figure it out without a whole lot of training and instruction," Stanley said.

Microsoft, which sells the tabletop computers for $5,000 to $10,000 each, is developing other software applications in partnership with T-Mobile, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, International Game Technology and AT&T.

"This is a brand-new world," Microsoft General Manager of Surface Computing Pete Thompson said. "This is Chapter 1 of a whole story of where this is going. We searched out partners like Harrah’s that know how to use new things like this and innovate."

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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