Remember the scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which Ron Weasley plays chess on a giant board, where the chess pieces keep moving on their own (and even cutting each others’ heads off in a rather gruesome manner)?
Yes, this one:
Well, this autonomous chess board — where the pieces move by themselves, though in a less bloodthirsty way — is not powered by magic, as in JK Rowling’s classic. Technology keeps the pieces on this board moving on their own.
Square Off is a classic chess board with a tech twist. Since it launched, the company has been covered by a variety of media outlets and the product reviews have been positive, but the real challenge for the company will begin shortly as it delivers the first batch of 2000 chess boards, which will be mass produced. Square Off’s chess boards will be sold through Kickstarter and Indiegogo and will cost you between $250 to $300.
The board lets a user play against the computer or from users from around the world using Artificial Intelligence. Through the square off app installed on you phone, your board and phone get connected via bluetooth and this enables the moves from your opponent to be reflected on the board in real time without him or her being even there. The physical movement of the chess pieces on the board is made possible by magnetic heads underneath the board to move the magnetic pieces. The board also uses your phone’s Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and your phone’s processor to process the data and think of the next possible moves.
It does look a bit spooky. Check this out:
Bhavya Gohil and Aatur Mehta, co-founders of the company InfiVention Technologies that has created Square Off, graduated from KJ Somaiya Engineering College in 2015. They are both 23. According to Gohil, the inspiration came to them when he and Mehta were working with the RiiDL incubator in college. “We were doing multiple projects like home automation. During this period we got in touch with the chairperson of the National Association For the Blind in Worli, Mumbai and he suggested the idea of creating a chessboard on which a blind person can play against a computer because they cannot play chess against computers otherwise,” says Gohil.
The company is planning to ship 2000 units by September.
In January, the company showcased the board at CES in Las Vegas which also won them the award for the cool tech product of the year. “What made it even more special is that at this grand event there were only four stalls from India, so it felt really good to get this recognition at the world’s largest exhibition,” says Gohil.
Next, it was time to start manufacturing the products. The company shortlisted Shenzhen in China to be the place where the first batch of boards were going to be made. But cost was not a factor, says Gohil. “Manufacturing in China made sense because of the ecosystem. Although raw material needed for making the boards and pieces are available here, they are imported from China and we are not anticipating selling the majority of the product in India (US is the biggest potential market) so it made sense,” he adds.
The team hopes Square Off will be one of the top products for the next holiday gifting season in the US between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It also has plans to do the same for other board games. “Imagine if you could play all board games on Square Off. Be it Chinese checkers, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble or any other fun game, there is a possibility to adapt it on this board,” the founders say. They are also working on connected toys and hope to push these out into the market in future.
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Lead image courtesy Square Off. The image shows a young boy playing on a Square Off chessboard at a recent chess event in New York.
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