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Old May 10th 04, 07:17 PM
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Default Robotic Chess / self-moving pieces / why not?

Interesting question.

I think the reason no such products exist today are these - (a) they
didn't really work very well, (b) they were expensive, and (c) they are
basically just a novelty that is a niche market within a niche market.

My guess is, every product cited below lost significant money for their
manufacturer/investor. Regardless of what 'technology' you use, a
mechanical device to move chess pieces on a chessboard reliably is going
to be much more expensive than a good chess program with good 3D
graphics - your primary competitor.

You can always re-load software or download a patch. Who's gonna fix a
malfunctioning or broken mechanical chessboard and pay the shipping
costs? I think potential investors who research the idea will run fast
the other way.

What you describe is do-able, technically. Just the potential market is
very small to start with. Kinda like opening a fine restaurant in a
teeny, remote town in the middle-of-nowhere. Doesn't matter how nice it
is, they always lose their shirts.

I'm trying to understand why we don't see any computer chess with the
ability to move the pieces unassisted.

After some research I've found only 4 models and it seems none of them
are being produced anymo

1.- Phantom Chess (M & B Electronics)
2.- Mirage (Excalibur)
3.- Novag Robot Adversary (had a robotic arm)
4.- Excalibur Robotic Chess 740 (another one with a robotic arm)

I've read some reviews on the Mirage model that seems to indicate the
product was poorly manufactured. For example, it used simple DC motors
that are found in cheap toys instead of a stepper motor. It that's true,
I can see why it was discontinued.

There are a couple of pages and even videos of the Phantom Chess on the
web and that seems to be a well built model from the 80s.
Personally, I think the concept is great and I'd love to have an updated
versions of those machines. So, I open this up for discussion: why don't
we see any model that can move its own pieces today?

Is it a lack of interest? Is it too expensive to manufacture? (With
today's technology I'd image that would not be the case)
Does anyone know of any 'open source' project to produce such a model or
even reverse engineer one that is still available so that we could build
one that could connect to a computer and even handle PGN files? I have
found a couple of on line stores that seem to still have the Mirage for