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Electronic Table Games

Okay, this is a product my kids and I would like to have. The idea came from the fact that for many years, we've played games while waiting for our food at restaurant tables -- usually connect the dots if we have a paper tablecloth and crayons, or tic-tac-toe if we have a tiled table, using blue packets of sweetener and white packets of sugar for the two colors.

Combine E-Ink with some form of extremely durable touchscreen layer above to create touch-sensitive, black-and-white, high-contrast display tiles -- figure about three to four inches on a side. The tiles would have simple, durable connectors that make them fit together. Tiles could be combined to form displays of arbitrary sizes.

Using this technology, build smart touchscreens into tables at restaurants. Power is needed at each table, but not an Ethernet drop -- use 802.11 instead. Along the edge of the table is a slot for a very small controller module -- if anything goes wrong, replace the whole module. There's also a slit for a smart card. When the waiter comes by, he swipes a special card that gives you five minutes for free. Want more? Just ask him for a 5-, 10-, 30-, or 60-minute card. He swipes the appropriate card and adds it to your bill. No credit cards, no coin drops, no bill readers.

What can you play? Simple bar games to start: chess, checkers, connect the dots, backgammon, reversi, tic-tac-toe, hangman, trivia, and so on. Alone? Play against the table. Together? Play each other. No geeky joysticks or buttons -- just a touch screen. Bathroom break? Hit a pause button to stop using minutes. Want to play, say, five-person trivia? Each person taps in front of them and the display adapts appropriately.

At first, the maker could offer to install them for free and share the revenue somehow. Later, the maker could charge for them as popularity increases. Restauranteur fraud? That's why they're smart cards. Provide a central terminal to recharge them. Each time a waiter uses a smart card, it deducts the amount appropriately. Waiters have special try-out smart cards that give five minutes of play time, but there should be a way to ensure this doesn't lead to fraud... maybe track each card per waiter (via the central terminal) with periodic audits.

My kids and I decided that if our favorite restaurants had this, they'd tap us for at least five extra bucks each visit.


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Love that idea, somebody do it already!!!

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