The Internet teaches us that we can accept stand-ins for the real world. We have an avatar that looks like us. We have virtual mailboxes to read messages out of make-believe envelopes. If you want to play chess, you can play with anyone in the world, but on a virtual board. Or, you can use [karayaman’s] software to play virtual games on real boards.
The Python program uses a webcam. You point it at an empty board and calibrate. After that, the program will track your moves on the real board in the online world. You can see a video of a test game below.
The basic idea is a chessboard that a player can use in the typical way, moving the pieces on the board as normal. The opposing pieces are then moved automatically to reflect an opposing player’s moves as received from an online chess server.
The board outwardly appears normal, with little to suggest anything is amiss. Only the metallic gleam at the base of each piece gives the game away. Pieces are moved by a SCARA arm hidden inside the board, which uses a magnet to drag them around from position to position. It’s quite something to watch the pieces glide around as if by magic, even more so when one is dragged off the board in a combat situation.
As for the control system, an Arduino Nano 33 IoT handles online connectivity to fetch game data from the Lichess chess server, while an ESP32 is responsible for all the motors, and a regular Arduino Nano scans a matrix of Hall effect sensors responsible for locating pieces on the board.
The system allows for seamless play, detecting when pieces are moved by the player via the Hall effect sensors, and reporting back to the chess server online. Similarly, when the game state is updated, the SCARA arm steps in to move the relevant pieces reflecting the moves of the distant player.
[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.