RFID-Enabled Scrabble Board

A special board reads which letters are on which squares, and then broadcasts that information via the Internet.
Published: November 29, 2012

A company called Mind Sports International recently announced that it had developed “arguably the most expensive and advanced tournament Scrabble system in the world.” The table-mounted system costs $30,000 and employs 225 radio frequency identification antennas, one under each square. A transponder is placed within each tile, and the appropriate antenna reads the tile placed on a particular square, broadcasting that information worldwide to online viewers of the Prague Mind Sports Festival.

“Our goal was to help bring popular Scrabble tournaments to life, whilst reaching a wider audience by capturing tournament play in a technologically advanced and engaging manner,” says Dave Brannan, Mind Sports’ CEO. “This allows us to broadcast Scrabble in all its glory, interacting with viewers that share a passion for this iconic game, and mind sports as a whole, across the world.”

The board is one of a kind, and is not available for sale. It was developed specifically for the inaugural Prague Mind Sports Festival, which will commence on Dec. 1, 2012. The festival, organized by Mind Sports, is sort of an Olympic Games for those who prefer mental endeavors, such as chess, backgammon, bridge and Scrabble, to physical sports like water polo and track and field.

It’s an interesting application, and the board has brought attention to the festival. But it’s not difficult to imagine RFID one day actually being embedded in board games in order to automate score keeping. Eventually, companies might be able to print antennas under a board and connect them to a tiny reader attached to that board. Tags might be printed at minimal cost on the backs of tiles or embedded within the tiles.

This would require advances in printed electronics, of course. But if the history of high technology has taught us anything, it is that what seems impossible today often turns out to be commonplace tomorrow. As an example, I remember reading in 1996 about being able to download images through the air. At the time, it used to take 15 or 20 minutes to download a 5 MB image through a modem plugged into the telephone jack. I remember thinking. “Yeah, it will only take a week to download a photo wirelessly.” Today, of course, people watch streaming video online as if it’s nothing.

Someday, I predict, people will play games on intelligent game boards and think nothing of it as well.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.