AI-enabled, robotic chess set ups its game with new modes
It may be 1,500 years old, but chess isn’t going anywhere, and part of its longevity may be the fact that it lends itself well to modern upgrades. Three years ago Infivention launched Square Off, a robotic board that moves pieces on its own, allowing players to play against AI or remote players around the world. And now, two new models are joining the Square Off line – the updated, chess-focused Neo and the multi-game Swap.
At a glance, the Square Off range might look like a run-of-the-mill chess set. The Neo is a standardized 8 x 8 grid of squares each measuring 1.5 in, with the tallest piece, the king, standing at up to 2.5 in. It’s available in sleek-looking ebony, wood or stone finishes.
The Swap, meanwhile, has a larger, 96-square grid, to accommodate a range of other games, like checkers, draughts, connect four and halma. There’s extra space down the sides for the captured pieces, and it’s finished in brushed metal.
But beneath the surface of those regular-looking boards lie high-tech hearts. A robotic arm with a magnetic head moves about under there, latching onto the magnetic bottoms of the pieces and dragging them into the right spots. The end result looks like Harry Potter’s wizard’s chess, with pieces intelligently moving around the board on their own.
Your opponents can be the board itself, with its built-in AI, or you can play online against people anywhere in the world, either with their own Square Off boards or through the mobile app connecting to chess.com.
Neo has a couple of new tricks up its sleeve over the 2016 model. That AI has 30 difficulty levels – 10 more than the previous version – and it can now auto-adjust itself to match your skill. For players who need to up their game, Viktor is a built-in chess coach who can run them through different lessons, puzzles, challenges and practice games.
The movements are also 1.5 times faster than they were on the original board, and more or less silent.
The Swap board packs in all this, extends the experience to a few other games, and adds some new features of its own. Blitz speeds up the game. Each piece has a designated “parking space” along the side, where it will automatically move once it’s been captured. And an auto-reset button will send all the pieces scurrying back to their starting positions.
The Swap board can also act like a live TV feed of professional matches, with the robotic arms moving the pieces of both players around while you watch.
An accompanying app lets users video call opponents, view a post-game analysis or replay of past matches to see where you went wrong, or schedule games with friends. If you run out of time, you can hit pause and the app will remember where everything is, moving the pieces back where they were the next time you pick it back up.
Infivention is currently funding the two new boards on Kickstarter, where it’s already raised over US$330,000 of its $50,000 goal with 16 days remaining on the campaign. Early bird pledges start at $119 for Neo, $149 for Swap, or $269 for both. If all goes to plan, shipping should begin by June 2020.
Check out Square Off Neo and Swap in the video below.