A few months ago, a scandal erupted in the chess world which led to some pretty wild speculation around a specific chess player. We won’t go into any of the details except to say that there is virtually no physical evidence of any method this player allegedly used to cheat in a specific in-person chess match. But [Teddy Warner] and partner [Jack Hollingsworth] were interested in at least providing a proof-of-concept for how this cheating could have been done, though, and came up with this device which signals a chess player through a shoe.
The compact device is small enough to fit in the sole of one of the player’s shoes, and is powered by an ATtiny412 microcontroller paired with a HC-06 Bluetooth module. The electronics are fitted into a 3D printed case along with a small battery which can then be placed into the sole of a shoe, allowing the wearer to feel the vibrations from a small offset-weight motor. With a second person behind a laptop and armed with a chess engine, the opponent’s moves can be fed into the computer and the appropriate response telegraphed through the shoe to the player.
While [Teddy] and [Jack] considers the prototype a success in demonstrating the ease at which a device like this could be used, and have made everything related to this build open source, this iteration did have a number of issues including that the motor buzzing was noticeable during play, and that his chess engine made some bizarre choices in the end game. It also requires the complicity of a second person, which is something this other chess cheating machine does away with. They also note that it’s unlikely that any chess players at the highest levels use devices like these, and that other chess experts have found no evidence of any wrongdoing in this specific scandal.
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[Umar Qattan] is in tune with his sole and is trying hard to listen to what it has to say.
At a low level, [Umar] is building an insole with an array of force sensors in it. These sensors are affixed to a flexible PCB which is placed in a user’s shoe. A circuit containing a ESP32, IMU, and haptic feedback unit measure the sensors and send data back to a phone or a laptop.
What’s most interesting are the possibilities opened by the data he hopes to collect. The first application he proposes is AR/VR input. The feedback from the user’s feet plus the haptics could provide all sorts of interesting interaction. Another application is dynamically measuring a user’s gait throughout the day and exercise. People could save themselves a lot of knee pain with something like this.
[Umar] also proposes that an insert like this could record a user’s weight throughout the day. Using the data on the weight fluctuation, it should be possible to calculate someone’s metabolism and hydration from this data.
What does your gait look like to your foot? During which part of your gait is the ball of your feet experiencing the most pressure? Is there something wrong with it? Can you fix it by adding or removing material from a custom insole? All these answers can be had with an expensive system and a visit to a podiatrist, but if [Charles Fried] succeeds you can build a similar system at home.
The device works by having an array of pressure sensors on a flat insole inside of a shoe. When the patient walks, the device streams the data to a computer which logs it. The computer then produces a heat map of the person’s step. The computer also produces a very useful visualization called a gait line. This enables the orthotist to specify or make the correct orthotic.
[Charles]’s version of this has another advantage over the professional versions. His will be able to stream wirelessly to a data logger. This means you can wear the sensor around for a while and get a much more realistic picture of your gait. Like flossing right before the dentist, many people consciously think about their gait while at the foot doctor; this affects the result.
He currently has a prototype working. He’s not sure how long his pressure sensors will last in the current construction, and he’s put wireless logging on hold for now. However, the project is interesting and we can’t wait to see if [Charles] can meet all his design goals.