Las Vegas has been in a constant state of reinvention, while its latest, as a citywide, family friendly amusement park, seems like its most inclusive. Las Vegas can hook you up, young, old and in-between. No longer is this desert town geared merely for adults only, with an inspired, evolved-to-iconic status ad campaign, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but home too, to one of the nation’s most exclusive shopping centers, Fashion Show, as well as its discount sister-stop, the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. There are lots of outdoorsy activities (for fall through early spring), and the opportunity to indulge in five-star hotels and restaurants. Vegas is also a world-class concert venue and convention destination.

But Vegas was not without academic-merit acknowledgement, because the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) has long been elevated to premier status as a metropolitan research university, and is considered “the” destination for those with an interest in hotel management.

The culture of the collab

Now, Intel, UNLV, and Caesars Entertainment have partnered collaboratively to support the Black Fire Innovation hub. The 43,000-sq.-ft. hospitality and gaming technology hub houses replica-integrated resort labs (i.e. hotel rooms, casino floor, etc.) to create and test new concepts utilizing 5G, AI, visual analytics, and edge-computing capabilities.

The multipurpose space will allow UNLV, Caesars and partners to develop and test new ideas using elements of a mock integrated resort environment. The mock elements include hotel rooms, a casino floor with slots and table games, presentation/exhibit areas, sports book, an esports arena and virtual reality facilities that will also be used to host on-demand testing of new ideas and products, while providing a venue to showcase innovations to current and potential industry partners.

The new Black Fire Innovation Research Hub in Las Vegas.
Image: Black Fire Innovation

Top tech highlight Innovation hub

Intel’s tools will help develop next-generation, data-rich consumer experiences, while also offering research and internship opportunities for students and partners. The facility plans to integrate 5G, esports and 3A-ready solutions.

“Black Fire Innovation’s lab will essentially serve as a grounds for research,” explained Joe Jensen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s retail, banking, hospitality and education division experimentation and innovation. “The lab will contain a replica integrated resort, including a casino floor, mock hotel rooms, commercial kitchen capabilities and esports arena and virtual reality facilities. The lab will be able to simulate real conditions in these various resort environments.”

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Black Fire Innovation began through the partnership of Caesars Entertainment and UNLV. UNLV’s status boasts as an innovator, and as home to innovators. Students “drive to continually bring innovation to our world,” and Caesars Entertainment is the world’s most diversified casino-entertainment provider, “the idea to partner on Black Fire Innovation just made sense,” Jensen said. Black Fire Innovation is located in UNLV’s Harry Reid Research & Technology Park. UNLV first partnered with Caesars, then Intel, to power the technological research.

Three companies ultimately came together with a big goal in common, Jensen said, “to bring our ideas of today to fruition in the future for customer experience in gaming, hospitality and entertainment. Intel has delivered engaging experiences for generations and put a priority on the customer experience. We hope to enable our industry partners to develop and deploy new guest experiences and entertainment solutions that accelerate innovation in the hospitality segment.”

New ideas

Jensen said he hopes Black Fire Innovation research will bring new ideas to improve customer experience to provide an overall more immersive, intuitive and intuitive guest experience across the gaming, hospitality and entertainment industries.

And, there will be plenty of tech. “Intel will be putting the computing power behind the various testing, research and innovation, offering technologies for applications of AI, IoT, blockchain and more,” Jensen said. “Intel will initially provide Intel® NUCs, 2nd generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor-based servers, Intel® RealSense™ depth cameras, Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkits, and Intel® Media Accelerator Reference Software (MARS) solutions.”

The space will offer opportunities for participating startups, researchers and partners through various membership options.

Expert Advice

Student will have a gaming lab in which they can learn.
Image: Black Fire Innovation

UNLV students can be involved through their work with experts, through mentorship and internship opportunities. “We will be taking up residence in the facility’s co-working space,” he said, “putting us right in the middle of the research and exploration from researchers and students alike. Our experts will be able to mentor and guide student interns and partners on course curriculum development that will bring industry-driven innovation to the classroom.”

Our interns will be working on building the future of hospitality research and development in areas, including primary research of the technology impact on guest experiences, new computing device types, and innovative business models. UNLV technology interns will also have the opportunity to cross-collaborate with other sponsoring partner interns on joint research and project development.”

UNLV will also hold classes related to gaming, hospitality and entertainment at the Black Fire Innovation facility. The first class just launched this fall prior to the facility’s official opening. “As part of Intel’s internship with program with UNLV, we are looking to hire the top hospitality technology students to work on-site at Black Fire,” Jensen said.

Intel already has an established internship program, with a goal to provide real-world, thought-provoking internships to undergraduate and graduate-level students. The majority of our interns go on to accept full-time opportunities with Intel after graduation. There is no better way to learn than to experience things first-hand,” he added, proudly.

Interest in the lab is high, and UNLV students have a hunger to explore, innovate and create. “This opportunity will offer access to a world-class facility, with companies leading their sectors, “and we are eager to help them learn and grow.”

For more, check out Coverys Innovation Hub on our sister site ZDNet.

Also see

A rendering of the new innovation lab at UNLV.
Image: Black Fire Innovation