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Square Off is the world’s first telerobotic chessboard

The board will let you play with friends around the world.

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I love board games. I love the feel of the pieces, the complexity of the rules, and the skill needed. Most of all, I love the competitive companionship. Since moving away from Canada as a teen, I lost the ability to play with my long-standing chess partner. We tried Facebook chess for a while, but it just didn’t feel the same and it eventually petered off. Maybe if we’d had this chessboard, that wouldn’t have happened.

Enter Square Off, the world’s first tech-based telerobotic chessboard. Designed by two engineering students in Mumbai in 2013, it replicates the feel of playing against a human opponent. In fact, using their app you can do just that, no matter how far apart you are. They were inspired after a meeting with the Chairperson of the National Association of Blind when they were still studying.

“He suggested that we should make a chessboard for visually-impaired people where the player can play against a computer but on a board. After a year we showed him the prototype and he was impressed,” recalls Gohil.

Much like my own childhood feelings, the team behind Square Off realized that chess was not just a game but also a way to create memories and lasting connections. Once they had a functional device, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, they started thinking about the big picture. They started thinking about connections, and comments from playtesting, such as “It’s magic” and “the chessboard’s literally alive” and devised an experience.

Here’s what they did

They invited a bunch of chess lovers to play on Square Off, under the guise of it just being a playtest. That would be magical enough, as they were surprised watching the chess pieces move by themselves, even after being captured. Some likened it to Wizard’s Chess, that game that J.K. Rowling invented in the Harry Potter universe. That wasn’t the only surprise on the day, as it was revealed that the moves made against them were not a computer, but players from some of their fondest chess memories. Watch the video below to see the gamut of the emotions on display:

Some Smart Moves

Their company, Infivention, has already gone through two rounds of capital raising and has garnered Angel Investors and VC investment. In fact, two of their first customers turned into Angel Investors. Chess.com integration is coming, starting with daily games, and then live games later on.

The founders have plans to use the same technology to create other interactive and automated games in the future with movable gameboards for things like checkers.

There’s definitely a resurgence of tabletop gaming currently, and Square Off looks like it came around at just the right time to benefit from this and move the game of Chess further than it’s gone for 1500 years. I can’t wait to get my hands on one, and perhaps start anew with my childhood nemesis.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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