KUKA vs Vladimir – Chess Blitz

Robotics Chessmaster Video

A colleague of mine sent me a link to the original article posted November 20, 2010. There was not much info given and the video itself does not reveal the winner of the match.  But it does show the vast integration potential of robotics and the infinite ways to creatively interact using available technology.

Anyone that knows anything about robotics also knows that the robot is not a magical device that can do pretty much anything and be the best at it.  It is the programmer and the engineer and the integration of all sorts of componentry that make robotics shine.  As mentioned, there was not much information in the posted article and nothing else has any been openly published to date, but we can assume certain things about what we see in the video.  Some people know what they are about to read as common knowledge, others however, will get a broad overview of a robotic system.

Vladimir and the robot are very similar.  They both have a “brain” and a “nervous system” as well as an “exoskeleton”.  They have fingers and arms.  They have joints and senses.  The robot just has a man-made arm and fingers.  Muscles and bones are cylinders or other types of actuators.  The eyes and nerves are sensors.  The joints are servo motors and gearboxes. First off, the development engineers have seemingly created a chess algorithm.  This algorithm is most likely being processed on a PC.  If you’ve ever played Chessmaster on the computer, you know that it is possible to play and most likely lose to the computer.  Instead of the game happening on your computer screen, they have made it, well, real.  The chess board must have a system of sensors interacting with sensors in the chess pieces.  The brain needs to know where what is, maybe a RFID system.  The computer takes this information, processes an algorithm and generates a move.  Instead of the piece moving on your computer screen, the computer transmits data, through maybe an Ethernet protocol (nervous system), in the form of coordinates and/or commands to the robotic controller.  These binary signals simulate the electrical signals our bodies transmit internally to move and think.  The controller, based on a system program developed by the engineers, takes these coordinates and navigates the servo motors in the robotic arm and controls the outputs on the end effector (fingers that grip the chess pieces).  The robot arm is essentially being told where to move, how to move and what to do when it gets there.   How does it know what to process and when?  When Vladimir hits the timer, he is telling the system that he has made his move and it is time to start its sequence of operation.  So, Vladimir hits the button, the computer takes the data given to it by the sensors in the chess board and pieces, processes the algorithm, data is sent to the robot controller, the robot controller controls the robot arm and the robot arm moves accordingly.  A basic series of commands you would see for a single move where the robot would take Vladimir’s piece would be:

  • Move to Location A
  • Grip Part 1
  • Move to Location B
  • Release Part 1
  • Move to Location C
  • Grip Part 2
  • Move to Location A
  • Release Part 2
  • Move to Location D (hit timer)
  • Move to Home

The robot isn’t smart, but he’s not dumb either.  Notice when Vladimir moves his piece half way to the next square.  The computer is getting conflicted data or knows that the piece has yet to be properly moved all the way onto a square.  The robot does not move until the piece is properly played.

For this to be accomplished, multiple components are working in unison while a large number of commands are being processed instantaneously.  By taking multiple technologies and integrating them together using data transfer, human interaction and electromechanical interfacing, we are able to do exactly what you see in the video.  The potential is endless.


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