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Games

Q&A: Chess Gets a Modern-Day Facelift With a Robotic Arm Moving Chessboard Pieces

27 October 2016

Chess is a game loved by millions of people around the world. But in an age of social media and advances in technology, the luster may have fallen a bit off the ole King and Queen.

Looking to strike a balance of old and new, InfiVention Technologies has developed its Square Off chessboard, a traditional-looking board with pieces that move in real-time via a robotic arm, automatically using magnets and powered by a lithium-ion battery. The chessboard allows users to connect via a smartphone application. Players can then play with others throughout the world, or they can play against the computer in the application.

The Square Off chess table uses a two-axis robotic arm with a magnetic head under the box powered by a lithium-ion battery. Source: InfiVention Technologies The Square Off chess table uses a two-axis robotic arm with a magnetic head under the box powered by a lithium-ion battery. Source: InfiVention Technologies The smart chessboard gives new chess players the ability to harken back to the old days where actual chess pieces were used in the game (rather than simply online with computer graphics), but uses technology to give it a fresh coat of paint. It also allows traditional players a new way to connect and compete against others.

Recently InfiVention Technologies launched the Square Off on Kickstarter, and it has already received nearly double its funding goal in just under a week. Bhavya Gohil, CEO of InfiVention Technologies, talked to Electronics 360 about the details regarding the Square Off board and some of the future features it may include.

1. Bhavya, tell us a bit about your motivations in developing the smart chessboard Square Off.

It all started with our thought to create a chessboard for the blind, which further extended to do this concept of connecting the world on a board game.

2. About how long did it take you to get the board right in terms of how it works with the smartphone application and the robotics inside the box?

After three years of intensive research, finally Square Off is ready to offer an unmatched experience to chess lovers across the world.

3. Can you tell us a bit more about the electronics that power Square Off, specifically the robotic arm that moves the pieces?

The Square Off chessboard allows players to challenge anyone through a smartphone application that moves the pieces in real-time. Source: InfiVention Technologies The Square Off chessboard allows players to challenge anyone through a smartphone application that moves the pieces in real-time. Source: InfiVention Technologies The board uses a compact two-axis robotic arm with a magnetic head beneath the box to move the magnetic chess pieces, powered by a 2200mAh lithium-ion battery.

4. If the phone application is connected via Bluetooth, how will it be possible to play someone that is in another house, or in another country for that matter? Are you thinking of adding connectivity options in the future?

The app uses the phone's Wi-Fi and shows you any player who is online at the moment so that you can connect with them and play the game.

5. Currently you can play via board to board or board vs. Square Off application. How long until multi-platform connectivity comes along?

At this stage, the board can interact only with the Square Off platform, i.e., the user can play Board versus Board or Board versus Square Off Application. However multi-platform connectivity is one of our primary objectives, and to make that happen, we are in talks with the leading chess websites. Hoping to begin with our beta trial soon. Rest assured, Square Off supports online connectivity for you to play with anybody in the entire world who's on the Square Off application. Once we get associated with the popular platforms, you will be able to play on them by simply updating the app. And that day doesn’t seem too far.

6. Are you thinking at all of porting the streaming aspects to any of the big streaming sites, such as Twitch or Youtube Gaming?

Not at the moment. We will work on this feature in the future.

7. Are you concerned at all about using lithium-ion batteries inside a wooden box, given the recent spate of issues with the batteries?

The cells will be balanced, and a high-quality battery along with protection circuit will be used. And even in the unlikely event that a battery does blow up, it won’t be harmful for the user because of the enclosure. Square Off uses MDF with coating, which is difficult to ignite.

The 12V 2200mAh may not sound like much, but we've used specialized algorithms and optimized the hardware to minimize the current consumption. Initial testing has found that up to 50 games can be played on a single charge.

8. Will a plug-in outlet option be available at all, or will that take away from the portability aspect?

Plug-in option will be available!

To learn more about the Square Off chessboard, please visit its Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1852340281/square-off-worlds-most-evolved-chess-board-ever

To contact the author of this article, email Peter.Brown@ieeeglobalspec.com


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