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Computer Chess Mat

A portable, flexible computer chess system that can be adapted to almost any chess set.
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Computer chess sets, while fairly diverse, are not nearly as varied as chess sets in general. While I prefer near-classic style sets, there are many other novelty sets that people love to use (which I find distracting, but never mind).

The idea is to have a thin, flexible, almost transparent electronic chessboard mat of a few different sizes which can be used with any chess set to interface with a computer player, or act as an automatic logger. (Note: it might be an idea to have the squares separable, and so the "mat" would work for widely varying sizes of boards.)

The position detection could be implemented simply as tiny buttons embedded in the squares*, and the computer could be housed in a reasonably small case**.

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*I considered a magnetic system (which I think is sometimes used), so that the mat could be placed underneath the board, but I think the detectors would have to be quite large, especially if the board is thick.

**Computer chess players get smaller and better every day, so I won't speculate on the exact size. Something smaller than Deep Blue II is what I had in mind, though.

Detly, Sep 14 2003

DGT Electronic Chessboard http://www.dgtprojects.com/eboard.htm
It's not a mat, and it ain't cheap, but it does the job [Ander, Oct 04 2004]

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       Maybe an overhead camera with specially coloured playing pieces would be the easiest way.
Cedar Park, Sep 14 2003
  

       [CP] Nice idea, but it wouldn't be very portable (would it? How big would it have to be?), and it would probably exclude using your own pieces, which is really what the idea is catering to.
Detly, Sep 14 2003
  

       Yeah, it would be hard to distinguish between pieces from a top-down view.
DeathNinja, Sep 15 2003
  

       ...unless you fashioned a variety of different small hats for your pieces to wear...
custardlove, Sep 15 2003
  

       Why would the camera need to tell the pieces apart? Since the computer would be playing the game from the beginning, and the starting positions of the pieces ar fixed, it should be able to track the position of all the pieces at all times. If it sees that the space previously occupied by a pawn is now empty, and the space directly in front of it is now occupied, the computer will infer that you moved the pawn forward.   

       Furthermore, the camera would not have to be directly overhead. A 3/4 view would be sufficent to tell the positions of the pieces with relative ease.
Ccapeland, Sep 15 2003
  

       This sounds exactly like a Sensory(R) brand electronic chess game, but with larger squares. I should note that in that particular game, the player would push down briefly on the originating and final spaces of each piece that moved.
supercat, Sep 15 2003
  

       [CCapeland]: It would not be sufficient, for instance in the case where a pawn moves by hitting an enemy pawn, and there are more than one to choose between.   

       But a (simple) solution would be to have small uniquely identifiable stickers that you put on the bottom of the pawns.
Brummo, Sep 15 2003
  

       Why wouldn't it be sufficient? Which ever space is empty is where the pawn came from. Stickers would ruin the effect of having a novelty set.
Ccapeland, Sep 15 2003
  

       Generally I don't think of any camera based interface to the real world as "simple". Even if there are tags, it will take a good amount of processing to recognize them.   

       The original idea seems good (and possibly even marketable) to me. The technology for the mat is there or almost there, on the touch-screen of most PDAs. (The touch sensor is a transparent layer on top of the LCD.) Having the system autoconfigure the position of each square based on the inital board would be a little work, but a lot easier than interpreting data from a camera.
scad mientist, Sep 15 2003
  

       Mat technology has been available since at least the advent of things like the original Nintendo, which had a few games that came with a running mat. Very easily baked. In fact, I have an electronic chess set with a push-mat surface, even though it has a hard shell beneath.
RayfordSteele, Sep 15 2003
  

       [Ccapeland]: I was thinking on the pawn that was removed. But I missed the fact that the computer could also register the empty space during the small time frame that the pawn is removed to be replaced by the moved pawn. So you may be right. But on the other hand, if the view is obstructed when the move is made, I believe my critique still holds.
Brummo, Sep 15 2003
  

       The computerised chess sytems that I've used do not need to uniquely identify the pieces. They simply assume a standard board layout from the start, and track each move - you press down on a piece when you pick it up to move it, and press down when you place it.   

       For custom games, you simply input the position of the pieces at the start.   

       [RS] refers to this above. My idea is to (very) basically extract the push-mat part, so you can use whatever board you want. It would even be conceivable to simply have 64 tiny, barely visible buttons which you could attach to your board and wire to some electronic player. But I think the mat would be easier to use.   

       As for being bakeable - I agree :) If I could afford to rip a part an existing electronic chess set, and modify the the push-mat I would...
Detly, Sep 15 2003
  

       Combine it with a head up display that projects expert hints from Deep Blue II on the eye-glasses of a player (typically the owner of the board). Its like gambling with loaded dice. Deep Blue II gets to share the gains of course, so little Deep Blue III and IV can go to good private chess schools.
kbecker, Sep 15 2003
  

       Those little punks...
Detly, Sep 15 2003
  

       But forget the mat. You'd have to size it for different boards, and you're counting on it not interfering with the aesthetics of the board or how the pieces stand up.   

       With the video camera hooked to the computer, you avoid any physical interference.   

       As for simplicity, software for image recognition is well baked, and it doesn't require any manufacturing or distribution. You could buy this online and download it to your computer and have it running in 20 minutes.
Ccapeland, Sep 16 2003
  

       A few points : 1) The idea, in part, is that an entire PC isn't needed. I could just play against a chess program on my computer, but (for some reason) I find that distracting. And it wouldn't be portable, for those of us that have no use for a laptop.   

       2) You're right in that the mat would have to be sized differently for different boards, which somewhat defies the point. Maybe make the squares separable, or have the unit come with several different mats. The mats would definitely be the cheapest part of a system (even if they are the entire idea).   

       3) Would a camera system be confused by a hand obscuring the pieces when you move?
Detly, Sep 16 2003
  

       Has anyone ever seen any of the Zowie Power games (//Red Beard's Pirate Quest// or //Ellie's Enchanted Garden//?) That sort of technology might be suitable (the play set uses a grid of wires for sensing, and can simultaneously detect the positions of about 9 different objects on the playfield with pretty good resolution).
supercat, Sep 17 2003
  

       You would need some form of piece recognition that copes when you queen one of your pawns. The software should automatically recognise whether you've changed the pawn into a knight, queen, bishop or rook depending upon the piece that is placed on the 8th rank.
PeterSilly, Sep 17 2003
  

       Detly: 1) You need some sort of computer to run the chess program, and that same computer can run the cameras. 2) If the mat comes apart, and still works, it would have to be some sort of wireless electronics. And to avoid interfering with the aesthetics, it would have to be small, thin, and transparent. That would make it expensive. 3) The software would wait for the hand to move out of the way before recording the positions of the pieces. This would allow the player to touch pieces and handle the board without committing to anything. Only after the hand was removed and a piece moved would the human's turn be over.   

       PeterSilly: Good point. Perhaps the lost pieces could be left off to the side of the board. Seperate pads or a part of the image still seen by the camera. Then when the pawn reaches the eight rank, the missing piece from the side is assumed to be the new piece.
Ccapeland, Sep 17 2003
  

       When I said separable, I was thinking they'd still be connected by thin wires. And my reference to the PC was a result of me misinterpreting something. But would a small computer (not PC) be able to run this sort of software? I honestly don't know enough about it to even guess.   

       [Ccapeland] Now that I've had more time to consider it, it's not a bad idea. In fact, it would no longer be a computer chessboard, but an electronic player. Its one eye would sit opposite you watching your moves, plugged into some compact chess computer. Maybe you should post this. ;)
Detly, Sep 17 2003
  

       [Ander] - oooh. I want one.
Detly, Jan 16 2004
  
      
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