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[Bar exam] Eye-tech

Entertainment is at your fingertips at Mandalay’s new center bar

Matthew Scott Hunter

Considering the joint just opened this weekend, it’s a busy night at Eyecandy. The place is filled with the suited and ID-tagged attendees of whatever convention is in town this week, and the crowd swills designer cocktails while beams of colored light dance across them from the sleek and futuristic bar’s complicated light show. Patrons stroll across an electronic dance floor that, when activated, will not only flash an assortment of colors but will also light up with the pressure of each individual footstep. And I’m watching all of this happen on the surface of my high-tech table in the secluded VIP booth in the back. This is what I expect bars to look like about a hundred years in the future, and I’m sitting in it right now.

Click here to see Eyecandy video

I press two fingers against an X icon on the tabletop, and my live camera view of the go-go dancing platform is replaced by a cool schematic of the entire center bar—formerly Mandalay Bay’s Island Bar, before the space received a massive futuristic refit. Now the place has the feeling of a nightclub or ultralounge, but with architecture that cleverly leaves the room feeling open and inviting to the rest of the casino floor. I press another icon on the stylized map and receive a voyeuristic view of couples flirting in one of the two cozy lounges on either side of the bar.

Suddenly, the table-screen changes on its own, offering me a camera view of a neighboring, curtained VIP pod and an invitation to draw. Our host accepts the invite and demonstrates the table’s pictochat capabilities. A roughly drawn grid appears on the center of the table, and its corner is swiftly marked with an X. The host quickly responds by circling his finger once in the adjacent space, forming an O. About 30 seconds later, it’s a cat’s game. But if the Matthew Broderick movie War Games taught us anything, it’s that even when cutting-edge technology is involved, tic-tac-toe is a pointless game (that, and thermonuclear war). And this is certainly cutting-edge technology.

Each of the four interactive VIP tables is just the tip of a $200,000 iceberg of computers and projectors extending eight feet into the ground. The glass surface is made of the same material as airplane windshields and can withstand 4,000 pounds of weight. I use it to draw a picture of Donald Duck. My friend Martin uses it to draw boobies. Then I integrate our drawings by having Donald look at the boobies. I love technology.

Our host whips out a remote control, and with the press of a button, the table begins to rotate. Oh, wait. That’s not the table—that’s the whole booth. The table actually remains stationary as the booth rotates to have its entrance face that of the adjacent booth, which comes in handy for parties big enough to fill two of the 12-person pods.

The structural schematic reappears on the table, and I press the center icon, giving me a camera view of the DJ. Across the dance floor from him are a few tables with iPod connections. At certain times of the week, when the DJ isn’t working, patrons will be able to hook up their playlists and turn the entire sound lounge into their own personal jukebox. Then, when the DJ arrives, customers can keep their iPods connected, and the DJ can pick other people’s music to integrate into his performance at his leisure. Nifty.

I press the red X that’s slowly circling the table’s perimeter to pull up the screen’s final function—an assortment of interactive screen-savers. Swirls of light and color appear, and when we press our hands against the table, brighter lights emanate from them before funneling into the center of the circle, accompanied by a jingling sound effect just loud enough to be heard amid the DJ’s music. For the next half-hour, we switch back and forth between the map screen and the screen-savers in order to cycle through and play around with all of them. One creates bubbles when you press on the screen, and Martin places the side of his face on the table to make it look as though he’s drowning.

At this point, we’re still sober. But imagine the possibilities when we aren’t ...

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