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— Electronics

Awesome Nixie chess set now available as a limited edition kit

The gentle orange glow of a Nixie display tube has held a special place in the hearts of DIY device builders for as long as I can remember but they seem to be undergoing something of a mainstream revival of late. Many are used as clock displays (as evidenced by our recent coverage of the Ramos alarm clock and ThinkGeek’s DIY Nixie Tube Desk Clock kit), due to the most common tube featuring a stack of numerical cathodes. Some display scientific symbols, of course, and its these Nixie tubes that have been used in the creation of the gorgeous chess board you see above. Developer Tony Adams (otherwise known as Lasermad) has received such a positive response to his design that he's decided to sell a limited number as self-build kits. Read More
— Games

Single-player chess hones your skills

There are a number of games that are ideally suited to lone players, such as patience, Tetris and, of course, solitaire. Chess, on the other hand, has always required an opponent, be it human or computer – to be a challenge anyway. But this new Solitaire Chess, which is “almost” chess but not quite, removes the need for an opponent but keeps the rules and moves associated with the traditional board game. The idea of this logic puzzle is to wipe out all the pieces bar one using your problem-solving skills as you would in a game of chess. Read More
— Automotive

Audi's autonomous Audi TT conquers Pikes Peak - how long before it betters a human driver?

Not long ago, there was informed debate on whether a purpose-built computer would ever beat a chess master. Now mobile phones have achieved Grand Master status. Computers continue to get exponentially faster, not to mention considerably smarter through improved software, whereas humans are effectively nearing their limits. Hence, it’s arguably only a matter of time and R&D focus before computers (plus improved sensors and software) surpass any specific human capability. This week Audi revealed that its Autonomous TTS research car had completed the 12.42-mile Pike’s Peak mountain course in 27 minutes. An expert driver in the same car would take around 17 minutes – now we have a benchmark, the race is on, and it's almost inevitable that a computer will one day outdrive the best of our species, and it may be sooner than you think. Read More
— Robotics

'Chess Terminator' robot takes on former champ Kramnik in blitz match

For almost as long as we've had computers, humans have been trying to make ones that play chess. The most famous chess-playing computer of course is IBM's Deep Blue, which in 1997 defeated the then World Champion Garry Kasparov. But as powerful as Deep Blue was, it didn't actually move the chess pieces on its own. Perhaps that's a trivial task in comparison to beating the best chess player of all-time, but still I was pleased to discover this recent video of a chess robot that more closely fits the true definition of a chess automaton. Read More
— Electronics

World’s smallest chess set and single hair barber win big in micro object contest

Anyone who subscribes to the view that good things come in small packages would no doubt be impressed by the winners of this year’s design contest held at Sandia Labs for novel and educational microelectromechanical systems (MEMs). The big, or should I say exceedingly small, winners were the world’s smallest chessboard, which is about the diameter of four human hairs, and a pea-sized microbarbershop that is intended to service a single hair. Read More
— Inventors and Remarkable People Feature

The checkered history of automation

"If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker” – attributed to Albert Einstein after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One law of science that has forever remained unchanged is the law of unintended consequences. When an idea is born its full range of repercussions is completely unpredictable, and the history of technology is a littered with fascinating examples of how one breakthrough can spawn something totally unexpected. In the hands of others, some do lead to tragedy, but more often than not we profit from technology's unexpected boons. Gizmag's Kyle Sherer follows some of these strange tangents to discover how an 18th century chess playing machine, French duck faeces, and a 60s movie called “Sex Kittens Go to College” are linked to the development of the computer, automobile, telephone and even space exploration. Read More
— Games

Checkers “solved” using up to 200 computers at a time

August 8, 2007 After 18 years of work, Jonathan Schaeffer from the University of Alberta, has announced the completion of Chinook, a checkers playing program that has calculated every possible playing scenario on a checkers board with ten checkers or less remaining. After evaluating the data, Schaeffer’s team concluded that whenever two players play through a game without making a single error, they will unavoidably reach a draw. It means that whenever Chinook plays competitively, be it with a computer or human, it simply will not lose. Read More