Will technology force live poker tournaments to ban sunglasses at the table?

TAGs: BluffCam

poker-tournaments-sunglassesOn June 1, South Carolina resident Joseph Solomon was charged with possession of illegal narcotics following a routine traffic stop. When Solomon was unable to produce a driver’s license, he was taken to the station for questioning. The arresting officer noticed in his report that Solomon kept scratching his leg, activity the officer found “highly suspicious.” A subsequent search of Solomon’s car uncovered 17 barbiturate pills.

The officer’s observance of Solomon’s leg scratching was a classic bit of intuitive police work; spotting a ‘tell’, as poker players refer to it. (Or a sign that Solomon has lice, you never know.) The need for such human perception may be coming to an end, however; a victim of technology, like everything else. New Scientist recently profiled a software project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lap dubbed MindReader, which can decipher human expressions to gauge a person’s mood. MindReader works by tracking 22 points around a person’s eyes, nose and mouth, and it’s already proving better than humans at discerning between joyful smiles and frustrated smiles. Affdex, a commercial version of the software, is already in use testing consumer reactions to advertisements.

Which leads us to BluffCam, an iOS app developed by WowWee Inc. that aims to teach players how to manage their poker faces. BluffCam measures a player’s heart rate by analyzing their face for “micro-changes in the color of a player’s skin.” A future ‘Table Edition’ of BluffCam will allow players to analyze the faces of their opponents, assuming they don’t start wondering why you keep holding up your iPhone to their faces every time fresh cards are dealt. Hard to imagine organizers of some major live poker tournament permitting such shenanigans to continue for very long.

But what if they aren’t aware anything’s amiss? What if the player is surreptitiously utilizing such technology via Project Glass – Google’s heads-up-display-equipped smart-glasses (assuming it ever progresses beyond its prototype stage)? Will the day come when tournament players have to submit their dark sunglasses for inspection before being allowed to take their seat? What happens when the technology is further miniaturized to the point where smart-contact-lens technology is available over the counter? And what if the contact lenses are then weaponized, so that the next time some 21-year-old poker wunderkind starts smugly adding still more of your chips to his stack, all you need do is blink and thereby reduce him to a small patch of brown liquid with one blast of your laser-lenses? Cool…


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