Tiny Chess Playing Computer

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We have covered many chess computers in the past, but we think this might just be the smallest. Enter the PIC Blitz: A tiny low-cost low-power computer that can play lightning chess.

It’s based on a PIC16F628A microcontroller, which only has 3.5kbytes of flash and a mere 224 bytes of RAM. For comparison, Boris (one of the first consumer chess computers), utilized an 8-bit microprocessor with 2.5 kbytes of ROM and 256 bytes of RAM.

PIC Blitz has a full fledged chess library: it knows all the moves, all the basic openings and even changes its evaluation function weights as the game progresses to keep the game interesting. The creator [Mark Owen] quips about some of the additional techniques he utilized to make up for the limited processing power; including “pondering time”, a difficult and slow user interface, and of course, a barely-comprehensible LCD.

If you’re interested he has released the files under Creative Commons, and has a link to the PCB layout on the project page – we won’t link it directly though, since it goes straight to a download.

[Thanks Martin!]

Hackaday Links: Sunday, May 19th, 2013

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Laser cutter owners may find this online box design tool which [Jon] built quite useful. It’s got a few more joint options than the Inkscape box design add-on does.

Apparently the US Navy has the ability to bring down drones in a flaming pile of laser-caused death. [Thanks Joshua]

[Michail] has been working on a transistor-based full adder. He’s posted a Spice simulation if you want to learn about the design.

Turn your crystal clear LED bodies into diffuse ones using a wooden dowel, power drill, and sandpaper. The results look better than what we’ve accomplished by hand. [Thanks Vinnie]

Play your favorite Atari Jaguar games on an FPGA thanks to the work [Gregory Estrade] did to get it running on a Stratix-II board. You can pick up the VHDL and support tools in his repo. If you’re just curious you can watch his demo vid.

Members of Open Space Aarhus — a hackerspace in Risskov, Denmark — have been playing around with a bunch of old server fans. They made a skirtless hovercraft by taping them together and letting them rip. Too bad it can’t carry its own power supply

Here’s another final project from that bountiful Cornell embedded systems class. This team of students made a maze game that forms the maze by capturing walls drawn on a white board.

And finally, here’s a unique chess board you can build by raiding your parts bin. [Tetris Monkey] made the board from the LCD screen of a broken monitor. The playing pieces are salvaged electronics (like big capacitors) against corroded hardware (like nuts and bolts). We think it came out just great!

Voice controlled chess robot

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[Ben Yeh] wrote in to tell us about this voice-controlled chess robot he built along with three others as a final project for their Georgia Tech ECE 4180 Embedded Systems Design class.

To handle the speech recognition they grabbed an EasyVR board. This is a fine solution because it prevents the need for a computer to process voice commands (remember, it’s an embedded systems class). This concept breaks down when you find out that the desktop computer next to the robot is where the chess game is running. Perhaps that can be moved to a microcontroller by the next set of 4180 students.

The robot arm portion of the project is shown off well in the clip after the break. Normally we’d expect to see stepper motors driving the axes of a CNC machine but in this case they’re using servo motors with built-in encoders. The encoders are i2c devices which feed info back to the main controller. There was a parts ordering snafu and the z axis motor doesn’t have an encoder. No problem, they just added a distance sensor and a reflector to measure the up and down movement of the claw.

[Read more...]

Virtual chess uses glove controllers

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Check out the game of chess going on above. It’s a virtual game where each player uses a glove as the controller. Or course the game board and pieces are missing from this image. They’re displayed on a computer monitor which both players can see.

The hardware rather simple, and we think it would be a great project to challenge your microcontroller skills. Each glove has an accelerometer attached to it, as well as a ring of copper foil on the pointer finger and thumb. One ATmega1284 monitors both gloves. The accelerometer data is used to move the mouse cursor on the screen, while the contacts are used to grip or release a playing piece. The game board and pieces are displayed using MATLAB with controller commands fed to it via a USB connection.

If you’re more into building a mechanized game check out this pair of telepresence chess boards.

[Read more...]

How about a nice game of Nixie chess?

[Tony] sent in a Nixie tube chess set he’s been working on, and we’re just floored with the quality of this build. The chess pieces glow without any visible wires, the board is extremely elegant with touches of gilding and brass, and extremely well designed using (mostly) materials and components contemporary to the old Russian Nixie tubes.

Instead of numeric Nixies, [Tony] chose IN-7 and IN-7A tubes originally made to display scientific symbols such as A, V, and ~. To power the these tubes, [Tony] used 64 air-core transformers underneath each square on the chess board, allowing these Nixie tubes to be powered just like an induction charger.

Even though his blog posts are a little thin on details, we’ve got to hand it to [Tony] for an amazing build. He says there will be a kit available that includes a gigantic PCB, but we wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how much that will cost.

You can check out a pair of videos of the Nixie chess set in action after the break.

[Read more...]

Chess board step sequencer

[tinkartank] wrote in to tell us about the chess board step sequencer he built. It’s a great piece of work that combines the wonderful classical erudition a set of chess pieces confers with modern technological musical equipment such as a monome.

The build began by routing small holes underneath each square and fitting very small and fragile reed switches. Sixty four of these switches are wired into rows and columns then attached to the digital inputs of an Arduino Mega. To close these reed switches, magnets are implanted into the base of each chess piece so whenever a piece is on the board is moved a circuit closes.

On the control side of things, [tinkartank] built a very nice control panel to change the key being played*, the tempo, an ‘arpeggio dial,’ number of steps, and if there is a whole or half step in between notes. With this control panel, [tinkartank] can play just about any scale.

How does it sound? Well, the Arduino Mega outputs MIDI so realistically it can sound like anything imaginable. From the video demo (available after the break), we really like the interface and a reed switch array chess board is slowly climbing up our ‘to build’ list, if only for all the cool stuff you can do with one.

[Read more...]

Building a game clock for Go or Chess

[Matias] is just getting into hobby electronics and decided to push the limits of his skill by building this game clock. He comes from a software design background and that really shows through in the UI design seen in the video after the break. We enjoy the journey through his prototyping process which started with an Arduino and a breadboard, and ended with this standalone timer.

After building the first working prototype with four buttons and a character LCD, he migrated to a plastic ice cream container as an enclosure. This worked well enough, but the flimsy case needed an upgrade. As he looked toward the next version he decided to move to an Arduino Nano board to save on space. The rest of the components were soldered to some protoboard, with a pair of pin headers to receive the Nano. The finished board is the same length as the Nano and only about twice as wide.

The box was modeled on the computer (it looks like SketchUp to us be we could be wrong) then cut from pieces of Masonite. It hosts the character LCD with a pair of arcade buttons for each player to shift the time burden to his or her opponent. The middle button pauses the game, and there’s a trimpot on the back to adjust the screen contrast. [Matias] managed to include a surprising number of settings which will make this little box useful for a wide range of game types.

[Read more...]

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