The Start of Something New

The Start of Something New

For the final project I am thinking about working with a reinforcement learning algorithm that I developed as an undergrad that can play the board game Othello. (For those unfamiliar with the game – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reversi) When I wrote this program several years ago I wasn’t very comfortable with creating GUIs so I would create an Othello board with x’s being a blank space, 0’s being a white piece, and 1’s being a black piece. It looked like this:

x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x
x x x 0 1 x x x
x x x 1 0 x x x
x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x

So while the algorithm was working correctly, the visual left a lot to be desired. At first I thought I could use Processing to create a screen-based visual but then I remembered that I’m in psychical computing and that I could build this! However, building this application posed three major problems.

  1. How does the computer get his pieces onto the board?
  2. Once the piece is on the board, how does the computer flip their conquered pieces?
  3. How will the computer know where the human player placed a piece?

I brainstormed about this issue for a while and discussed with several students and professors how to approach this issue. Here are some ideas:

  • Light up the appropriate square where the computer would move and I could act as a proxy
  • Use a touch screen
  • A moving robot arm to place and flip the pieces
  • A board made of 64 mini displays/mini touch screen
  • Rubberized buttons, each with three LEDS signifying no piece, white piece, or black piece
  • Three sided servos with motor driver
  • Using coils of wire to create magnetic fields, each piece would be magnetic and switching the polarity of the field would cause the pieces to flip
  • Magnetic ink
  • CNC that used linear rails with steps to place piece
  • Holoflex sensors to track when a (magnetic) piece is placed
  • See through discs and LEDs underneath the board to change colors of the disc

I think the solution I like best is involves the holoflex sensors to track the piece, see through discs to flip the pieces, and the CNC to place discs on the board. Inventables has a product called Shapeoko that could work, but I’m open to any and all suggestions since this equipment is very expensive and I don’t need any of the drilling pieces.

Shapeoko

Shapeoko

I also want to stay away from using any type of screen, because I really want to push myself with this project and building anything psychical is definitely not one of my strong suits. I originally wanted to do the rubberized buttons with LEDs idea but after talking to a few people I realized people like pieces! Users are going to want to move things with their hand, and hold on to the piece as they look at the board trying to decide their next move.

As far as the prototyping process goes, I would like to capture a GUI first. Then create a 4×4 board and work just with the see through discs and LEDs. I’m curious how clearly the LEDs will light their individual piece and what the user experience will be. The third phase will be to create an entire 8×8 board and incorporate the holoflex sensors. The final phase will involve some kind of beautiful laser cut wooden board and the CNC.

Would love to hear comments, questions, or suggestions!