Shadow Chess

While a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, I designed and built "Shadow Chess", a pair of internet-connected chess sets that let you play a real game of chess with a remote opponent. When you move a piece on one board, it senses where it was moved to and relays that information via wifi to the second board, which then "shadows" it by physically moving the piece to the appropriate square using magnets.

I designed the pieces using parametric modeling software, 3D-printed one of each, used the 3D prints to create silicone molds, then cast the 64 pieces out of plaster with an embedded magnet at bottom. I spray painted half of them black then laser cut some soft, felt bottoms for them.

I laser cut the board out of 1/8" thick black and white acrylic, using two layers of offset squares to reinforce the board and create channels for the wiring underneath.

Under each square was a custom-built circuit board with a magnetic sensor. I wired up the 64 circuit boards on each board in a grid like fashion and used a one-at-a-time scanning technique in software to detect changes to the pieces' locations on the board.

I designed the enclosure using AutoCAD and CNC milled it out of birch plywood. Using clamps, wood glue, and some custom-made brackets, I constructed the enclosure.

The electronics in each chess board consist of an Arduino, Wifi module, stepper motors, servo motor, LCD screen, and push button. I wrote custom software for the Arduino as well as for a backend web server that mediated the game between the two chess boards.

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