Pinball Innovation: Flipping At The Bleeding Edge

Imagine if we had a crystal ball to see into the future to see what pinball machines would look like – what would we see?

The future of pinball depends on innovation to ensure it remains relevant. Innovation can be obtained via the use of current and emerging technologies, and unlike the end of the 20th century, the technology is already available for pinball manufacturers to leverage and perhaps get an advantage over their competitors.

The current leaders in pinball innovation, Jersey Jack Pinball (JJP) have not only forced their competitors to innovate just to keep up with them, they are constantly pushing themselves to come up with new ideas for their pinball machines. JJP’s latest release, Dialed In! is the first pinball machine to feature Bluetooth® connectivity that provides new capabilities (like controlling the flippers) through a smartphone. Innovation never ceases, so pinball manufacturers need to keep up or risk perishing.

Jersey Jack Pinball’s Dialed In! is the first pinball machine with Bluetooth connectivity

With all this talk of innovation one wonders what current or emerging technologies can be used to catapult pinball machines to the bleeding edge. There are current technologies that pinball designers and manufacturers can leverage to provide a better and immersive experience for their target market – be it the player, operator or collector. The advent of cloud computing has allowed a myriad of services to be used, from big data to  streaming analytics and real-time telemetry monitoring via Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver innovative products and services.

First things first, what the hell is this Internet of Things (IoT)? In a nutshell, it is a system of ubiquitous sensors connecting the physical world to the Internet. Although things, Internet, and connectivity are the three core components of IoT, the value is in closing the gap between the physical and digital world in self-reinforcing and self-improving systems. IoT creates these systems by connecting things, animate or inanimate, to the Internet with unique identifiers that provide context, giving visibility into the network, the devices themselves, and their environment. Equipped with rich data sets and using advanced analytics, IoT can give us enormous insight into our world, and this is where pinball manufacturers can differentiate themselves by providing IoT-ready pinball machines and mobile applications that can provide telemetric real-time data analysis and information, event processing, pattern analysis and recognition from a player, operator or collector’s perspective.

Pinball manufacturers in the 21st century that want to stand out from the crowd could enrich the pinball experience with a number of innovations using IoT, like:

  • Geospatial awareness – a geo-location broadcast (to a smartphone app) to ensure players know where to find and play a particular pinball machine
  • Fault tolerance with predictive failure on components using telemetry sensors
  • Health monitoring on key components with real-time component status and diagnostics reporting (on screen / email report or via smartphone app)
  • Playfield Analytics that gives the user a rich set of dimensional (per ball / per game) information on:
    • Playfield hot spots to show the area where the ball spends most time
    • Statistics on shots, play and modes, providing shot accuracy (%)
    • Ball speed in kilometres or miles for the speed demons
    • Time per ball and points per ball
    • Shot reaction time to measure how fast a player reacts to hit/flip the ball
    • Track use of machine (in tournament mode) and provide the player their score via smartphone app

Innovation should improve and enrich the experience of pinball by providing deeper real-time insights about the machine, either from a player wanting to know how hard they hit the ball or the operator acting proactively on fixing a component before it fails.

For pinball to remain relevant, manufacturers must challenge the status quo by pushing the technology envelope to keep players, collectors and operators flipping for longer. Long live the silver-ball!

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