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Play GNU Chess On Your Scanner 157

Posted by timothy
from the time-on-hands dept.
leighklotz writes "Debian developer and Internet Mail Archive founder Jeff Breidenbach of PARC has made GlyphChess, a chess-playing copier using Python, GNU Chess and DataGlyphs attached to the bottom of the pieces. DataGlyphs are cool 2D barcodes made out of / and \ marks for ones and zeros that use the coding from CDs for error coding. If you don't happen to have a Xerox machine at home, it also works with SANE..."
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Play GNU Chess On Your Scanner

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  • by Omicron32 (646469) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:01PM (#6060999)
    And the "Most pointless thing ever" award goes to...
    • Re:Award winning... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HornyBastard77 (667965) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:11PM (#6061090)
      Maybe not.

      From the article:

      Why

      Like many fun hacks, GlyphChess has paid off in unexpected ways. First, testing DataGlyph software and algorithm changes is a lot more engaging. It is hard to get excited about 99.98% vs. 99.97% decode rates in testsuite #73, but if a rook disappears, well that is simply unacceptable! We've found GlyphChess an excellent diagnostic and quality assurance motivator that inspires rapid bug hunting and closure. Second, it turns out some of the software technology refined for GlyphChess is applicable to more boring, but commercially important domains. Finally, GlyphChess is a compelling demonstration vehicle for DataGlyph Toolkit technical capabilities, including our DataGlyph location routines, our ability to decode arbitrarily rotated DataGlyphs, and our very high tolerance of variation in scan resolutions and positioning. GlyphChess works and it works well.

      We also gained valuable experience about DataGlyph application building.

      • by swordboy (472941) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:38PM (#6061328) Journal
        Maybe not.

        This actually just jogged my hamster into "what if" mode...

        Wouldn't it be really cool if the chess pieces used RFID chips to identify themselves to a board (not a scanner, but a real chess board). Said board could move the players around with magnets. It wouldn't be too complicated if you designed it properly. The board would have to be large enough for the players to move in between each other... Actually, on a somewhat more complicated level, make it small so the other players have to *move* out of the way when the computer takes a turn.

        Not only would it be fun for hours, but you could probably start a psychic chess network and charge people to play chess with their dead grandmother's.
        • Re:Award winning... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by graveyhead (210996) <fletch@fletcht[ ]ics.net ['ron' in gap]> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:02PM (#6062013)
          what, like this [berkeley.edu]?

          I had that idea a couple years ago too, except you forgot: network chess becomes amazingly fun when your friend is in your house as a ghost! They should build this & bundle with Chessmaster ?000 with network capability, so friends without the board can play on their PC!
        • ...right, so it goes like this:
          1. Design chess that uses RFID chips for identification to the board.
          2. Design bord that could move chess pieces with magnets.
          3. Start a psychic chess network.
          4. Profit.

          FINALLY!!! The step 3 has been described!!!
        • Wouldn't it be really cool if the chess pieces used RFID chips to identify themselves to a board (not a scanner, but a real chess board). Said board could move the players around with magnets.

          Great idea but you're about 25 years too late. Back when chess computers first came out (I'm thinking 1978 or so) I remember one that was just as you describe. It was a full-size board, about two inches thick, you could pick the pieces up to move and it would slide it's reply.

          In answer to the obvious question, how

    • by curne (133623) <curne AT curnomatic DOT dk> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:14PM (#6061118) Homepage
      Nah, the Most-Pointless-Thing-Ever award still goes to inventor of the Helicopter Catapult Seat.
      :-)
    • But ..but . .imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:04PM (#6061020) Homepage Journal

    How do you undo a move, tear up the last page of paper?
  • soar losers (Score:5, Funny)

    by frieked (187664) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:05PM (#6061033) Homepage Journal
    Do you get to send the winner a photocopy of your ass when you lose?
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:06PM (#6061042) Journal
    The Ubiquitous Reed-Solomon Codes
    by Barry A. Cipra

    Reprinted from SIAM News, Volume 26-1, January 1993

    In this so-called Age of Information, no one need be reminded of the importance not only of speed but also of accuracy in the storage, retrieval, and transmission of data. It's more than a question of "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Machines do make errors, and their non-man-made mistakes can turn otherwise flawless programming into worthless, even dangerous, trash. Just as architects design buildings that will remain standing even through an earthquake, their computer counterparts have come up with sophisticated techniques capable of counteracting the digital manifestations of Murphy's Law.
    What many might be unaware of, though, is the significance, in all this modern technology, of a five-page paper that appeared in 1960 in the Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The paper, "Polynomial Codes over Certain Finite Fields," by Irving S. Reed and Gustave Solomon, then staff members at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, introduced ideas that form the core of current error-correcting techniques for everything from computer hard disk drives to CD players. Reed-Solomon codes (plus a lot of engineering wizardry, of course) made possible the stunning pictures of the outer planets sent back by Voyager II. They make it possible to scratch a compact disc and still enjoy the music. And in the not-too-distant future, they will enable the profitmongers of cable television to squeeze more than 500 channels into their systems, making a vast wasteland vaster yet.

    "When you talk about CD players and digital audio tape and now digital television, and various other digital imaging systems that are coming--all of those need Reed-Solomon [codes] as an integral part of the system," says Robert McEliece, a coding theorist in the electrical engineering department at Caltech.

    Why? Because digital information, virtually by definition, consists of strings of "bits"--0s and 1s--and a physical device, no matter how capably manufactured, may occasionally confuse the two. Voyager II, for example, was transmitting data at incredibly low power--barely a whisper--over tens of millions of miles. Disk drives pack data so densely that a read/write head can (almost) be excused if it can't tell where one bit stops and the next one (or zero) begins. Careful engineering can reduce the error rate to what may sound like a negligible level--the industry standard for hard disk drives is 1 in 10 billion--but given the volume of information processing done these days, that "negligible" level is an invitation to daily disaster. Error-correcting codes are a kind of safety net--mathematical insurance against the vagaries of an imperfect material world.

    The key to error correction is redundancy. Indeed, the simplest error-correcting code is simply to repeat everything several times. If, for example, you anticipate no more than one error to occur in transmission, then repeating each bit three times and using "majority vote" at the receiving end will guarantee that the message is heard correctly (e.g., 111 000 011 111 will be correctly heard as 1011). In general, n errors can be compensated for by repeating things 2n + 1 times.

    But that kind of brute-force error correction would defeat the purpose of high-speed, high-density information processing. One would prefer an approach that adds only a few extra bits to a given message. Of course, as Mick Jagger reminds us, you can't always get what you want--but if you try, sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. The success of Reed-Solomon codes bears that out.

    In 1960, the theory of error-correcting codes was only about a decade old. The basic theory of reliable digital communication had been set forth by Claude Shannon in the late 1940s. At the same time, Richard Hamming introduced an elegant approach to single-error correction and double-error detection. Through the 1950s, a number of researchers began experimenting with a variety of error
  • by OmniVector (569062) <[ ] my homepage ['see' in gap]> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:07PM (#6061049) Homepage
    Amazingly enough, it's possible to play chess using these strange "pieces" and a "board." Although the idea is novel i suppose.
  • Wow! (Score:1, Troll)

    by tomakaan (673394)
    It never ceases to amaze me what worthless (but cool) things people come up with when they have time on their hands and technology to waste. Don't you all work!!
  • Misleading (Score:4, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:08PM (#6061060)
    Heck, I thought that they programmed one of their advanced copiers to play chess. Not just simply using it as a hohum input device. I agree it is a cool way to test their glyphs, but not very interesting beyond that. The thought of programming your scanner/copier in python scratches that nerdy itch much nicer.
  • by dereklam (621517) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:09PM (#6061082)
    Clearly, they're running their web server from the copier, too. Paper jam!
  • Just great! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Eberlin (570874) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:10PM (#6061085) Homepage
    A new and innovative way to get my arse whipped by a computer. As if losing umpteen times on the standard chessboard wasn't enough.
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:10PM (#6061086) Homepage
    He's hosting the page on his own system so he can rob the computer player of precious cycles!

    It's all a ploy to give him an unfair advantage over GNU Chess!

    • Actually that is my one complaint about GNU Chess. As a novice, it would be nice to actually have a snowballs chance in a warm room. Even in Easy, it's a question of WHEN I lose, not if.
  • Running a game using a scanner is more sensible than using a printer. Game of Life in Postscript [slashdot.org].
  • I think it would be much more productive and fun to scan your butt and draw a face on it. On a much more serious note, chess already can take upwards of 2 hours to play, especially if you're playing one of those super careful people. Playing it like this would have to be a weekend event. It is an interesting technical feat though, but really provides no advancement for current technology. I sat here for 5 minutes trying to think how it might help further a current idea or help people with disabilities, bu
  • Wow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by lostchicken (226656) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:13PM (#6061112)
    We've /.ed PARC. They must still be using an Alto to host the site.
  • by Larthallor (623891) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:18PM (#6061166)
    DataGlyph techology is patented by the Xerox corporation. The DataGlyph toolkit is a binary only library that you must license to include with your "product". Despite the use of Python and GNU Chess in this example, I doubt very much that DataGlyphs are going to be of much use to the open source community.
    • Like the ironic phrase goes "Everyone copies from Xerox"
    • There is an excellent list [adams1.com] of 2 dimensional bar codes of this style, some of which are public domain.

      I have always wanted to work on an opensource project to put business card info in a standardised format into a 2d barcode you can print on the back of your business cards. Someone can then just slap the card in a scanner and have correct information put straight into their address book.

      Yet another item on the ever increasing 'cool ideas if i ever get some spare time' stack.
  • misleading title (Score:4, Insightful)

    by magarity (164372) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:23PM (#6061214)
    It seems from reading the article that the copier does NOT play chess. The copier inputs the positions into the computer, which then plays chess.

    While you can buy pressure sensitive boards to attach to the computer, these are pretty expensive. It's a lot easier to play chess on a real board instead of the screen. Notice that when grandmasters play computers there is a person who runs the computer and moves the pieces. So overall, this is a pretty cool hack if you happen to be a serious chess player who also has a sufficient copier already sitting around.
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:24PM (#6061222) Homepage Journal
    We're setting up a PC. Some hdd conflict, won't boot. CD drive broken, doesn't work. Floppy drive okay but not a single bootable floppy around. Let's see what it provides more, maybe some network boot... I look through BIOS options. Oh well, SCSI. What do we have attached to SCSI? A scanner?! Hey, come on, get a pencil and write some startup code on that sheet of paper, maybe we'll succeed booting it from the scanner! ;)
  • Big deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:24PM (#6061227) Journal
    I can run Duke Nukem on a Cue Cat.
  • by MarkGriz (520778) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:30PM (#6061276)
    No, let's play global thermonuclear war.
  • ...how that Xerox LeGrande Full Color DocumentCentre 5600C copier (serial number removed) got into my home is none of your business.

    For Sale: Collector's Edition Replica U.S. $100.00 bills from the early 1980's - for private display only. Packs of 50 go for just $299.95 (no checks). Sale price good thru 7/4/03.
  • by Tsali (594389) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:39PM (#6061335)
    So all those glyphs from the Egyptians was really some sort of primitive multiple-player shoot-em up game?
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by zsazsa (141679) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:43PM (#6061372) Homepage
    Finally, after more than 30 years and being spun off of Xerox, PARC finally comes up with a product involving copiers. And it's absolutely useless.
    • It's funny because it's true!
    • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

      by c0dedude (587568)
      Don't worry. We're sure, like all other big ideas from PARC, it'll leave within a few days and start its own company.
    • By quite a bit, actually. Look here [parc.com] down around 1989.

      Also, on the same history page, in the Mid 80's section, you'll see an entry for an expert system named Pride developed at PARC. Pride helped Xerox design their first line of desktop copiers, and is quite famous within the company.

      I worked for (long lamented) Xerox AI systems from 1986-88, and consulted for them off and on through 1994, which is how I know about this.
    • by jab (9153)
      FlowPort [xerox.com] is a Xerox product involving copiers that came out of PARC - it also uses DataGlyphs, by the way.
    • Re:Finally! (Score:2, Informative)

      by metamanda (662939)
      Uh, for what it's worth, PARC developed this. [xerox.com]

      For those who are too lazy to click on the link, here is the relevant info:

      Integrate critical business information into electronic workflows with FlowPort. Enable the integration of paper documents with groupware, e-mail/messaging and document management systems. Leverage network digital devices, such as digital copiers and Internet fax machines.

      FlowPort(TM) features a unique user interface that gives users the capability to access and control documents wit

  • by Alomex (148003) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:46PM (#6061386) Homepage
    In a scale from 0 to Geek, he get's a 100.

    • Arithmetic according to C: float x = 3.14159; float y = 1/2 * x; Value of y? zero.


      I don't understand the problem.

      Do you contend that strong typing is inherently wrong? Or that Cs default casting should be better at guessing what you mean? Or what?

      -Peter
  • I tried playing GnuGo on my scanner, but the glass broke when I slammed the stone down. Oops.
  • ...would be if a controllable electromagnet was attached to the scan head. Then, the scanner could actually move the pieces around too. You'd have to do some 'move blocking pieces into a holding area temporarily' stuff, but that would make the project even more fun, no?
  • by Wesley Everest (446824) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:57PM (#6061459)
    Now what I've been envisioning is a setup where you aim a webcam down at a Go board, and it automagically figures out the full board position as you go. After the game is done, you have a record of the game in the digital SGF format so you can step through and analyze the game.

    Some more details -- the software would constantly grab images of the board and process them in realtime. It should be able to use the redundancy to correct for errors and also to know when a move is done (since you'll move your hand away from the board for at least a dozen frames or so, even if you play fast). The board is a nice regular rectangle, and pieces are black and white circles -- even at an odd angle, it should be easy to determine the full board position.

    I feel confident I could do it, but it would take me tens of hours of coding/testing, and I don't have the time, but I bet someone would love to do this for a senior project and opensource the code... please... :)

    • I completely agree. It's much more intuitive, effective and elegant than pasting bar codes onto pieces and putting them on a scanner.
      It seems like a very doable image recognition problem and you could probably make the software flexible enough so that it would be board and piece independant, even for chess.

      Than again, it's easy to speak in could and would haves.

  • I can't believe this article's been posted this long and no one has mentioned the "remote chess" scene in Bladerunner. Now we just need a small projector suspended upside down over a chessboard to project the images of the pieces onto the board.
  • This is news for REAL nerds. I mean, who cares if you can fit Windows 98 into a flash memory card? ;-)
  • First, kudos to implementors; definitely a cool idea. Second, I certainly approve of the use of FEN position notation as nearly all chess engine and chess database prorams can import and export this open format. (Also, I am the author of FEN.) Third, the article example position string of: 11111111/111111r1/11111111/11111111/11bN1B11/1p111 R11/p11K1111/k1111111 w - - 0 1 can be more concisely coded as: 8/6r1/8/8/2bN1B2/1p3R2/p2K4/k7 w - - 0 1
  • that when you're bored you can come up with the lamest ideas ever! :)
  • by hqm (49964) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:41PM (#6062431)
    For people who want to play with error correcting codes, you can get the source code for a Reed-Solomon decoder/encoder I wrote here:

    https://sourceforge.net/projects/rscode/

  • I had an idea almost twenty years ago of creating an "Arcade Chess" game. Basically, both players could move at the same time. Checkmate would be impossible (a lone King could thoretically roam around the board and capture the other King), so the object is simply to grab the other guy's King.

    Playing around with the concept on a real board, this added a whole new dimension to chess playing. I tried programming on my C64, but never ended up completing it (damn pain in the ass machine language programming.
    • Basically, both players could move at the same time.

      Slashdot has probably covered this already, but a site called Kung Fu Chess [kungfuchess.com] hosts a version of chess "where you never wait your turn", along with a few other games based on the no-waiting concept. I'm sure it does brain damage to your regular chess game if you play it too much, but I find it quite enjoyable.

  • if / meant 1 and \ meant zero then a glyph that is /\ would be 10 right? So what if the glyph was upside down so that it looked like \/, 01? It looks like the chess scanner program tries to match the pattern with a reference so even if it is upside down it should work, but how is this "glyph" system used to encode information if the slash order become backwards when turned upside down?

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