The Project: Develop and deploy applications for Microsoft Surface, a \n\ncomputer in the form of a table. Surface employs \n\ninternal cameras that respond to hand gestures or physical objects placed on its 30-inch \n\ntabletop screen. \nMore on CIO.com\nEarly Adopters' Secrets For Success With New Tech\n\nEnticing Return Customers is the Name of the Game at Harrah's\n\nThe Business Case: Harrah's board was wowed by the system, which allows \n\npeople to use their hands to touch and move objects on the screen and which recognizes \n\nobjects placed on it based on their shape or a bar code. But Harrah's CIO and SVP of innovation, gaming and technology Tim Stanley (who \n\nretired in January) saw more than a flashy user interface. He envisioned new ways to \n\ngenerate revenue.\n\nThe decision to try Surface came from the gut, says Harrah's Vice President of Innovation \n\nChris Chang. The goal was to "establish Surface as a platform to guests and then figure out \n\nhow to make money from it." Nevertheless, the company defined how much it was willing to \n\nspend to prove the technology would create value.\n\nFirst Steps: Harrah's signed on as one of five inaugural customers for \n\nSurface in 2006. Chang created a cross-functional team to brainstorm ideas for it, then five \n\ndevelopers spent almost a year building eight applications. Among them: Flirt, which allows \n\nguests to chat with each other across a bar, and Mixologist, which enables guests to create \n\nand order custom cocktails.\n\nHarrah's introduced Surface at the PURE nightclub in Caesar's Palace during a celebrity \n\npoker event in February 2008. Then the company installed six machines at the iBar lounge in \n\nits Rio Hotel & Casino for a 120-day pilot. Flirt was an instant hit. Mixologist, meanwhile, \n\nhas proven to be a revenue generator. \n\nDuring the pilot, Harrah's signed tequila-maker Patr\u00f3n Spirits as a Surface sponsor. \n\nThey offered a Patr\u00f3n-themed bowling game, created coasters that launched a \n\nPatr\u00f3n ad and handed out cards that, when placed on the Surface, offered prizes like a \n\nfree margarita. Drink sales rose 15 percent as a result of the program.\n\nOverall, Harrah's links most of the 19 percent increase in both sales and traffic at the \n\niBar to the presence of the Surface computers. Property managers liked the devices so much \n\nthat Harrah's let them remain once the pilot was over. Now Chang's team is developing new \n\napplications and plans more deployments in Las Vegas this year. The ultimate goal (assuming \n\nregulators approve): Use the Surface to deliver casino gaming.\n\nWhat to Watch Out For: You need patience when deploying something untested. \n\nSurface was "extremely immature," Stanley says.\n\nOne of Surface's main attractions\u2014its ability to recognize many points of contact \n\nsimultaneously\u2014has been Harrah's greatest pain point. "It's another whole level of \n\ncomplexity as opposed to single-function, single-stream transaction-based applications," \n\nsays Stanley. Plus, there are currently no automated alerts or remote monitoring processes \n\nfor the Surface; Harrah's depends on users alerting bartenders or wait staff if the system \n\nisn't working.\n\nInitially, Harrah's wanted to let guests discover how to use the system on their own. But \n\nChang found that help videos were a better idea.