Arts & Culture News

UT Dallas Has Created Robots That Play Chess

Bobby Fischer said that "chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent's mind." If chess is a war, then the minds at UTD have just gone nuclear.

See also: Five Ways to Use Klyde Warren Park

In a joint effort between UTD's electrical and mechanical engineering departments and the legendary UTD chess program -- world-championship legendary -- have combined to create robot chess, which was on display at Klyde Warren Park over the weekend. If you thought chess was all broken bottle cap glasses and pocket protectors, think again.

In true UTD style, neon green and orange chess pieces sit atop two black rubber wheels and measure around two feet in height. They are controlled by two combatants sitting at computers nearby, which determine each move with the help of legal guidelines and potential moves per piece. The chess board measures around 20 feet squared, and after a piece is eliminated, the operators must wheel it to the sideline. Each piece costs roughly $350 and looks like a two-wheeled RC car.

Professor Nicholas R. Gans, of the UTD Engineering and Computer Science Programs, talked to Mixmaster about the project.

Why robot chess? We decided that between the powerhouse chess program and powerhouse engineering program we have, we should create a robot chess set.

Does UTD have robotic experience? We have one of the reigning champion battle-bots, and we've done quite well in the unmanned underwater vehicle competition. We have a very strong background in robotics, so it was pretty easy to recruit some students to work on it.

What are the odds of each piece becoming self-aware and battling each other to the death? Very little. The processing power of each unit is very limited

What does the future hold for UTD's robot chess? We have some great ideas about using helicopters as knights so that they can truly jump over the other pieces.

Flying chess robots. Brain has officially met mechanical brawn, and if the future ventures of the UTD robotic brain trust prove half as successful as their chess program, more amazing spectacles can be expected. I look forward to their potential/hypothetical/purely fantasy future catch phrase "from the guys that brought you a world champion battle bot, and robotic chess, UTD robotics presents ROBO HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS!"

I believe the phrase is "A boy can dream."

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Matthew Lawson
Contact: Matthew Lawson