Published: March 24, 2021

ChessLens board with pieces on it

A three-member team that included Creative Technology and Design undergraduate students Mason Moran and Colin Soguero, took first prize at HackCU for their project, ChessLens, an augmented reality application that helps chess players improve their game. The winning team also included Luke Soguero, a computer science major and Colin’s brother.  

Colin Soguero

Colin Soguero

ChessLens helps chess players improve their games using a smart chess board that communicates with an AR application, demonstrating to players their best next chess move as well as evaluating the players' previous moves. 

“I'm so proud that our project was worthy of a win, especially after spending 24 hours nonstop working on it,” said Soguero, who is also a member of the ATLAS Institute’s ACME Lab.

Held virtually this year, HackCU is a CU Boulder annual invention marathon where participants build and share their creations in just 24 hours. The ChessLens team, which beat 23 other groups that submitted projects, won Nintendo Switch Lites and an all-expenses paid trip to the next Pinnacle Hackathon, an invitation-only competition featuring four winners from each of the world’s largest collegiate hackathons.

“My team always stays up the entire time during hackathons,” said Colin Soguero, a veteran hackathon participant. “It’s brutal, but rewarding in the end, and lets us get more done. We have fun getting our computers out, setting up shop, getting out the Red Bull and just going for the full 24 hours non stop.” 

Mason Moran

Mason Moran

Colin says the project was a great fit for each team member’s strengths and interests. His academic focus is augmented and virtual reality development, Moran's interest is physical computing and Luke Soguero’s major is computer science. He added that the popular Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit,” as well as video streams that allow others to watch grandmasters play chess, has popularized the game among the younger generations, himself included.

The team constructed the chess board during the hackathon from paper and sheet metal. An Arduino calculates the location of each chess piece on the board and sends the information to a chess engine which determines the player's next best move and evaluates past moves. The information is then sent to Unity, which is run on a HoloLens head-mounted AR display. Participants wearing the HoloLens see chess pieces holographically displayed on the board, along with suggestions for next moves. 

The three continue to tweak the application, but Colin doesn’t foresee continuing to work on it much longer.

“It’s just a nice portfolio piece,” he said.