Brain-controlled chess is here

The most mental game in existence no longer requires fingers.

Brain-controlled chess is here
Photo: digilife / Adobe Stock
  • A brain-controlled interface implements a two-step process: Identify the chess piece, then place it on the board.
  • The program was 96 percent accurate at correctly moving chess pieces.
  • This research opens up opportunities for physically impaired people to express themselves in new ways.

    By November 2020, The Queen's Gambit had been watched in over 62 million households, making it the most-watched scripted limited series in Netflix history. The thoughtful, stylized show on the patient pursuit of chess was perfectly timed for a world in lockdown. Viewers were enamored with Elizabeth Harmon's mental prowess as she envisioned dozens of potential moves on the ceiling in order to evade capture and declare victory.

    Chess is one of the most intellectually stimulating games in existence. What if you could play it purely with your mind? Given how immersive chess is, can you imagine leaving the physical world behind and truly entering a mind palace?

    A game of the mind

    It turns out a number of researchers have had such a vision. In a paper published in IEEE Xplore, German professors David Hubner, Albrecht Schall, and Michael Tangermann discuss the evolution of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) as applied to two-player chess games. Incredibly, 96 percent of moves were correct — and most errors were technical issues that they believe can be fixed.

    Chess is played by an estimated 605 million people around the world. While face-to-face interactions will always be an integral component of the intimacy of chess, the game was adopted early on the internet. The ability to play at a distance increased its popularity and accessibility as players found suitable opponents across the planet.

    Photo: Anusorn / Adobe Stock

    The BCI is based on a two-step process: first, identifying the piece a player wants to move, then moving it on the board. In this study, six players used a BCI chess application (which was based on an open-source Java app) along with an electroencephalogram (EEG) equipped with 31 passive electrodes that detected the chess piece and board position in the player's mind.

    Before the game, each player performed predefined chess moves to calibrate the BCI. During play, they also had a predefined amount of time for thinking about their next move. Specifically, they were given 15 seconds to consider the piece that they were going to move and five seconds to "move" the piece. If the player only had one possible move, the BCI automatically executed it.

    Hands-free chess has real-world applications

      Beyond the excitement of controlling a computer with your mind, the researchers recognize a variety of potential applications. For instance, BCI games aid in cognitive training and help motor-impaired people express themselves.

      --

        Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

        Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

        We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

        What is the rarest blood type?

        Abid Katib/Getty Images
        Surprising Science
        • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
        • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
        • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
        Keep reading Show less

        How space debris created the world’s largest garbage dump

        Since 1957, the world's space agencies have been polluting the space above us with countless pieces of junk, threatening our technological infrastructure and ability to venture deeper into space.

        Space debris orbiting Earth

        Framestock via Adobe Stock
        Technology & Innovation
        • Space debris is any human-made object that's currently orbiting Earth.
        • When space debris collides with other space debris, it can create thousands more pieces of junk, a dangerous phenomenon known as the Kessler syndrome.
        • Radical solutions are being proposed to fix the problem, some of which just might work. (See the video embedded toward the end of the article.)
        Keep reading Show less

        Looking for something? A team at MIT develop a robot that sees through walls

        It uses radio waves to pinpoint items, even when they're hidden from view.

        TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images
        Technology & Innovation
        In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, touch, and even smell.
        Keep reading Show less
        Quantcast