Week 1: The Start Of An Augmented-Reality Journey!
“Every Chess master was once a beginner.” -Irving Chernev
Hello everyone, welcome to my very first senior project blog! For those of you interested in chess, AR technology, or interdisciplinary computer science, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s post I will be talking about a brief introduction to my project, my background and interests, the details of what I plan on doing, and my plan for completing it. So, let’s get started!
- Background And Interests
- Details Of The AR Training System
- Current Progress And Goals
As you might already know, my senior project is to design an augmented-reality based training system for serious chess players. We’ve all heard of chess, the ancient strategy game, and augmented reality, a state-of-the-art technology. What makes this project unique and novel is how it combines these two known concepts into a new, masterpiece product. Admittedly, AR/VR chess exists, but as of now, these applications are fairly limited in what they can do. Most of them are only designed for players to casually play amongst themselves and simply serve as a “cool” mechanic. However, AR is a revolutionary tool, and revolutionary tools have revolutionary potential. I believe that AR can completely change the way players study chess, and in my project, I will be exploring the practical applications of these technologies.
The Power Of AR
Now, one of the biggest questions before I start my project is: how would an AR system help players improve their skills? To answer that question, it is important to understand what chess players must do. At every move, they must calculate long variations and visualize dozens of different positions in their minds. This is something difficult to do, so players train these skills consistently. Yet, there is a problem: although competitive chess tournaments are all in-person, with physical chess boards as the norm, players generally train with digital boards at home. Websites like Chess.com and Lichess are amazing platforms for players to study chess, but they all display chessboards on a screen. As a result, players become much more acquainted with these “2D environments” and must make an uneasy transition when playing in actual tournaments.
An AR system, however, may bridge this gap. These technologies are able to simulate reality, allowing for training platforms that precisely mimic the environment of real tournaments. This goes beyond just rendering an actual chessboard — even the surroundings, like the clock, the notation sheet, or the table number can be simulated! Thus, I hope to take advantage of AR technology to offer players a powerful alternative to their traditional studying methods.
Background And Interests
For me, this project means a great deal, especially since I am both a passionate chess player and an AR researcher. I have been playing competitive chess for many years, and improving my skills is what I constantly strive towards. Whether it be studying openings, playing training games, or solving tactics, there are many ways for me to get better. I would definitely consider myself to be a serious player, someone who would benefit from this project.
On the flip side, AR is a field I’ve become engaged with more recently. I started during the summer after 11th grade at the Research Mentorship Program, and from there I started working with my current mentor. My first research project on AR was creating an immersive dance theater. Although I had no prior experience with choreography, it was a cool and fun project regardless. Before that project though, I was already well-versed in using the Unity Game Engine, due to my background as a game developer. Luckily for me, my AR projects use the same development software. This gives me the much-needed experience to pursue larger, more complex projects, such as the one I have planned for my senior year.
The inspiration for this project is rather interesting. I was watching Queen’s Gambit, the famous Netflix chess show, and I was “jealous” of Elizabeth Harmon’s ability. She can picture the chessboard just by looking at the ceiling!!! Obviously, even grandmasters don’t have such powerful visualization skills…yet what if they did? What if I created a software that can help players visualize the board? And boom! That’s when I realized that AR can do just what I wanted. Of course, this is not the only source of inspiration, but it is the most noteworthy one.
Details Of The AR Training System
For my project, I will be using the Unity Game Engine to construct the AR environment. One of the most important pieces will be creating the 3D chessboard, which must accurately reflect the rules of chess. All the coding for this project will be in C#, which is the default language for Unity. The training system will also consist of a database of master games. This will provide players with high-quality, instructional materials so that they can study the playing styles of top-level professionals. Finally, to actually project the AR environment, I will be using a head-mounted display called the Microsoft HoloLens 2 device to test my product.
Of course, I will not be doing this project alone. My summer program mentor, You-Jin Kim, from Four Eyes Lab at UCSB will be helping me with this project. My chess coach, Davorin Kuljasevic, will also provide me with guidance, specifically with regards to finding suitable training material. And of course, my internal advisor, Ms. Bhattacharya, will be helping me as well.
Current Progress And Goals
Although I was at Disneyland this week and was not able to work on my project, I did get a major head start through my Capstone Advanced Java class. My final capstone project for that class was to create the database structure that will store all the training games for my AR system. Although I wrote the code in Java, translating it into C# would not be too challenging, due to the similarity between the two languages. As of now, the database structure is able to import games and display each move, with their corresponding annotations. Screenshots of what the system can do are located at the end of the post.
By next week, I hope to have the AR system set up in Unity and start creating the 3D chessboard. This part would take some time, as I would need to implement both the 3D models and the rules of chess. I may be able to find suitable assets online, but if not, I would need to create everything by hand. Only after I finish creating the chessboard will I start re-implementing the database structure. Hopefully I will be able to get a decent amount done now that I am not on vacation!
Anyways, that’s all I have to say for today!!! Stay tuned for weekly updates on how the AR system is going! If you’re lucky, you may be one of the first to use it once I finish it