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World’s Smartest Chess Board Lets You Move Physical Pieces Without Touching Them

Square Off, the world’s smartest, most connected chess board, gives the centuries-old sport of chess a 21st century touch by allowing players halfway around the world to interact with physical pieces without actually touching them.

Chess has been available as a digital game for years, but true fans know that there’s nothing like playing on a high-quality physical board. That’s hard to do when your opponent is thousands of miles away, or at least it was until someone came up with away to allow people halfway around the world to play chess on a physical board made of rosewood. It looks like a magical set out of a Harry Potter movie, but it’s actually a wonder of technology that harnesses robotics and internet connectivity to make the impossible possible.

Square Off allows opponents to play against one another remotely, through an app or online. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and uses a robotic arm underneath the board to reproduce the opponent’s moves, by guiding the pieces on the checkered surface. The robotic arm working behind the scenes to make the magic happen uses a magnet to guide the wooden pieces, which have their own magnets, on the board.

Same thing happens on your opponent’s board, if they happen to be using a Square Off set. According to a Cnet article “to play, you need to press down on a piece, which elicits a quiet beep, make your move and press down a second time to confirm the position”.

 

But Square Off is about more than just automatically moving pieces. It basically allows users to find human opponents virtually anytime, by connecting to the Chess.com community of over 24 million players around the world, and also has a built-in AI component that offers 20 difficulty levels. Reportedly, the board’s highest difficulty setting is the equivalent of an Elo rating of 3380. The currently highest ranked chess player in the world, Magnus Carlsen, has an Elo rating of 2886.

As you may have guessed, this smart analog chess board isn’t cheap. The Square Off Kingdom set sells for $369, while the larger Grand Kingdom set costs $445. Are they worth it? It depends on how much you enjoy playing chess on a physical board, I guess.