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Mumbai college designs tech-savvy chessboard for the blind

The innovation centre at Somaiya College has designed a chessboard that is tailor-made for the sightless, with Braille inscription on chess pieces, voice feedback of every move played, and textural differences between black and white boxes

Inspired by their belief that no one should be denied the intellectual stimulation derived from a good game of chess, the innovation centre at the Somaiya College campus in Vidyavihar has conceptualised and designed a chess board that enhances the experience of playing the ultimate strategy game for the visually impaired.

Chess
Called Automated Chess (AC), the board game provides the player with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) over the Internet, so one person can play sitting in any corner of the world, while the other plays on the physical chess board.

The specially designed board comes with Braille inscription on chess pieces, voice feedback of every move played, and textural differences between black and white boxes, amongst other features.

“There are already board games available in the market that can be used by the visually-impaired, but our board game involves technology that allows one to play the game online as well as on a physical board; the board automatically plays the moves depending on the keys pressed,” said Gaurang Shetty, head of the innovation centre.

The project was introduced by Shetty two years ago, and was completed only this year, with the help of three college students. “The existing board games in the market for the visually impaired are incomplete. So, we have collaborated with the National Association for the Blind (NAB) for their inputs while launching this board game,” he said, and added that the group has filed for patenting their work.

Called Automated Chess (AC), the board game can be used for a single-player game or a game with two players. “AC also provides the player with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) over the Internet, so one person can play over GUI sitting in any corner of the world, while the other plays on the physical chess board,” added Shetty.

Super smart
The board consists of a 64-key membrane keypad. At the heart of the project is Arduino, an open source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware. It is used to transfer signals from the board to the computer.

The chessboard is designed to facilitate the other senses of the player. “A voice feedback is provided to the player. The chess pieces are inscribed with Braille and there are textural differences between the black and white boxes, making them easy to use for players. Users will find it easier to not only play the game, but will also understand the other person’s moves in the game better,” added Shetty.

This team had applied to the Maker Faire in Rome, and have recently been invited by the organisers to showcase the board in Rome next month. The Maker Faire Rome is a festival of invention and creativity, in which projects from across the globe are showcased.

“While the project is ready, we are also trying to incorporate other features to this chess board for even better results,” Shetty signed off.

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