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Subject: Playing Pieces That Communicate Wirelessly rss

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Daniel Wilson
United States
Long Beach
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Anomaly, or inevitable unlikelihood?
Snoopy : )
Lately, I've been thinking of how to bridge my love of programming, board games, and DIY into a new project and I've come up with an idea that's more a proof of concept for other things I want to do. I'd like to build my own electronic chess set in which the playing pieces understand which space they're on and can determine if a move is legal or not and light up legal/illegal spaces accordingly. I'd like to make the game out of wood and have some magical chip inside of each piece. Is there some piece of electronics that would fulfill my needs.

I'd imagine the range of the chip/device would need to be incredibly low, so only the space it is on would be able to determine its presence. Is there anyone who could point me in the right direction regarding this matter? Thank you!
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T. Dauphin
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Don't know about the materials to make your own, but are you aware of this;

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1651651/board-game-can-thin... ?

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Shalom Craimer
Givat Zeev
(Near Jerusalem)
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My current favorite wireless chip is the ESP8266, since it does WiFi, and costs only a few dollars on eBay (international shipping for the win!). You can surely get cheaper radio-only wireless chips for 2-3 dollars a piece (it gets much cheaper if you order 100+, which you may need to if you want to equip each piece in a game). Just keep in mind that unless the chip doesn't talk RS232 or 1-wire, then you're going to be writing another layer of transport. And unless it supports an application-layer protocol, then you'll be writing that, or having to deal with lost commands and lost data.

Other good keywords: ZigBee (low power bluetooth) or BLE (bluetooth low energy).

I can think of a few ways to approach this, but there are issues with them:

1. The "board" is aware of where each space is on the board, and knows what pieces can legally be placed there at any given moment. Each piece could have a passive identifier (RFID for radio reading, or barcode for optical reading) and the board spaces would be able to read that. Then the board could tell each piece if it was illegal or not.

2. You could write ID information on the top side of each piece, and have a camera above the board read the IDs. After some post-processing of the camera image, it could detect invalid moves and notify what you did wrong.

3. You could create some kind of positioning system. The pieces could figure out where they are somehow, and notify you when they are in the wrong place. (Perhaps moving a laser beam or strobing IR LEDs across the board and reading their latency could give good enough positioning?)

4. Mechanical contact! Each place on the board could have a "socket" (like an earphone jack or something smaller) and each piece would have a matching plug on the bottom. The pieces would plug into the board, draw power from the board, and notify the board what type they are. Then the board could tell them to light up as needed.

The issues I see are:

1. Any chip you put into the pieces will need a battery, or will have to be powered wirelessly. I'd stay away from batteries if you can help it, since most degrade chemically after less than a decade, so you'd have to replace them. Which would be exhausting.

2. Wireless is expensive on power. The same battery that can power you watch for 4-5 years, can power an ESP8266 for only a couple hours of transmission time. (I think. I don't remember. I remember figuring out I could stretch it to a year with just sending one burst a day for less than 1 second.)

3. Lighting up lights is expensive on power. LCDs are cheap on power, since they don't produce their own light to hit our eyeballs - they use light reflected off the back of the LCD and interrupted by the crystals. Again, watches made things look easy

4. It's hard to make sure the piece is within a space. Unless you physically force it into a slot (such as by drilling out a socket or something) then users may mis-place the piece very close to the edge of a space. Might be mitigated by making spaces very large relative to the size of the pieces.

This stuff isn't easy, but it sure can be fun! I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll create!
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