Are Robot Dealers Coming?
The rise of the robots and AI is inexorable, we are told.
Jobs will be lost in their millions as more productive, reliable and loyal machines take the place of humans.
We've already seen production lines transformed by robots, but what about those jobs which involve interacting with the public and which are currently monopolised by humans?
This very question is being pondered by the casino industry, including at its heart in Las Vegas.
And one very controversial area is the suggestion that the iconic casino dealer could be a thing of the past, with incorruptible robots able to deal quicker, more accurately, and, with AI, even interact and have fun with patrons.
If that sounds inconceivable then consider already the amount of automation that happens at online casinos sites reviewed by Casinopedia, where live streamed dealers are assisted by computers and technology which simply allows them to get on and deal and chat to the players.
A big talking point
When you ask business bosses if they want to save money, stay the right side of the law, reduce errors while maintaining or enhancing the customer experience, the chances are you will have caught their attention.
Automation in the casino industry is nothing new. Casino dealer salaries have seen a 150% rise over the last ten years and that all has to be paid for.
So it's no surprise to learn attendees at the Global Gaming Expo trade show in the Asian casino capital of Macau were interested to learn how robot dealers are being brought to life.
While the idea has been around for a while, technology tends to get cheaper over time, and there is now every suggestion that it is becoming more viable as an alternative to the traditional croupier.
The benefits are clear. Many casino fraud and scam cases involve employees of the casino, and that's very often the dealer.
As a result, scrutiny and checks on the dealer are very necessary - and costly. Not only that but robot dealers, as well as being incorruptible, could also be made to deal faster, deal and shuffle in a perfectly fair way, and generally offer consistency for the player.
But the other side of the coin is the obvious one. Part of the skill of the dealer is being able to engage and heighten the player experience.
To match that, robot dealers will need some seriously impressive AI, but also body movements, inflections and all those communicative physical cues which people pick up on.
The only way to find out is to trial them - and casinos are expected to do just that within the next two years.
It was perhaps appropriate, then, that the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 was held in Vegas, and indeed the subject of robots was a key theme.
From robot concierge staff at airports, to self-driving cars, the world of automation was made to seem already upon us.
The Vegas strip is already home to Tipsy Robot, a cocktail bar boasting the perfect mixing by flawless robots.
While that may be a novelty - it shows the potential for automation in jobs previously reserved for humans only.
It begs the question, if a robot's good enough to mix your cocktail, surely its good enough to deal you a hand of blackjack.