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RFID Scores High at Mind Sports' Scrabble Tournament

Last weekend, the world's greatest Scrabble players went head-to-head using an RFID-enabled board, tiles and tile holder, enabling online spectators to follow the action in real time.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 06, 2012Mind Sports International's mission is to provide events that bring together the players of "the world's most popular mind sports." Last weekend, the company held its inaugural event, Prague Mind Sports Festival 2012, which included not only tournaments for bridge, backgammon, poker and Risk, but also RFID-powered Scrabble matches.

When people think of spectator sports, Scrabble is not typically the first game to come to mind. So the challenge facing Mind Sports International is how to bring the game's competition to viewers at home in an engaging way. Enter radio frequency identification, which the firm's parent company, British sports event-management and gaming consultant Living It Loving It, hopes may help present the game to online viewers. For the Prague Mind Sports Festival, the company incorporated the technology into a version of Scrabble, embedding a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag in each tile, and installing hundreds of reader antennas in the game board and tile holders. The technology, designed by British RFID company IB Technology (IBT), and built by IAG Technology, made it possible for online spectators to see which words were on the board, which letters each player had in his or her possession and the word options being considered by the players, based on how they arranged the tiles on their holders.

Mind Sports International's RFID-enabled game board contains nine RFID readers and 225 reader antennas.

IBT developed RFID readers and antenna arrays installed by IAG beneath the game board, in order to capture location data interpreted by Living It Loving It's software on a Mind Sports server. Using that information, the software indicated each tile's exact location on the board. During the festival, game enthusiasts were able to sign onto the Mind Sports server and view the matches in real time, says Peter Ramsay, Living It Loving It's director of marketing.

Mind Sports International plans to organize similar events for competitors worldwide, with the goal of recording and streaming the matches online. Although cameras can capture some of the action, a host of cameras would need to be arranged around a Scrabble table, the company explains, in order to capture a view of the board itself, as well as players' tiles, and there would be no analytics to help online viewers consider each player's standing and options.

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