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Jan 31, 2020

Welcome to the Lab: Black Fire Innovation Debuts

Virtual reality at Black Fire Innovation.
People on computers at Black Fire Innovation.
A casino game at Black Fire Innovation
The race and sports book at Black Fire Innovation.
A person uses virtual reality at Black Fire Innovation.
CEO Tony Rodio and Gov. Steve Sisolak at Black Fire Innovation.
Ribbon cutting at Black Fire Innovation.
Slot machine at Black Fire Innovation
Group picture at Black Fire Innovation.
A black jack casino game.
Andrew Baca shows gaming equipment during a tour of Black Fire.
A person in a lab at Black Fire Innovation.
Andrew Baca during a tour at Black Fire Innovation
A person uses a gaming computer.
The esports arena at Black Fire Innovation

More than a year ago, Caesars Entertainment and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, entered into a partnership to create an academic technology hub designed to shake up gaming, entertainment and hospitality. The goal? To birth new ideas, showcase emerging concepts and transform the industry.

On Jan. 23, the vision became reality as industry leaders and dignitaries gathered for the grand opening of Black Fire Innovation.

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the 43,000-square-foot facility a “cornerstone” of the southwest Vegas Research and Technology Park bearing his name.

Governor Steve Sisolak was equally enthusiastic. “Black Fire Innovation will create opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia that simply aren’t possible on many college campuses today.”

[RELATED: Black Fire Innovation confirms collaboration with Intel to advance hospitality customer experience]

The tech hub is the first tenant in the research park but may remain its flashiest. The fourth floor of the research building represents its heart.

In cinema, there’s a term: “mise en scène” – loosely translated as “placing on stage.” It’s everything in the frame, from the lighting to décor, props and costumes. Everything works together to tell a story.

Visitors are thrust into Black Fire’s mise en scène the moment they step off the elevator.

A mock sportsbook shows the latest game near a casino floor. Roulette and slot machines illuminate the area – future site of what could be the next big table game or slot.

In the nearby esports arena, UNLV students face off with Caesars staff in “Rocket League.” Massive screens capture every play, like a major event streamed over Twitch.

“We are looking at the next generation of fan engagement,” explains Andrew Baca, Caesars director of business innovation and technology strategy. “We can do things like simulate an esports tournament in the arena and look at how we might introduce that to a sportsbook. We have the ability to do everything in here, from an intimate pitch night venue to a full-scale esports production.”

In another space, DreamlandXR demonstrates a digital virtual reality lounge – not uncommon in hospitality. DreamlandXR has helped host many VR parties inside Vegas nightclubs. This lounge is nestled near a bar and dining space, where students can test new F&B ideas.

Black Fire also houses two test hotel rooms, created with their own “ecosystem,” Baca says. Everything from the lights to the blinds can be orchestrated. Caesars CodeGreen environmental values are reflected in the rooms. “We are going to look at things like detecting silent leaks and conserving water,” Baca says.

As times change, the guest experience must evolve. Customers may be Twitch streamers or non-gaming environmentalists. The goal is to cater to everyone. And Black Fire Innovation provides academics with a state-of-the-art test lab to dream up and develop those customized experiences.