It was one year ago that a prototype of the “Universal Go Board”, Go equipment particularly suited for the visually impaired, was presented during the 29th WAGC.
On that occasion a demonstration game was played by Pierre Audouard, the French representative, and Nakamuro Hitoshi, one of the top visually impaired Japanese Go players.
Developed jointly by Osaka University of Commerce and Kobe Design University, the Universal Go Board closely resembles a traditional go board and is quite easy to become comfortable with.
The grid of lines is in relief and it is easily perceptible to the touch. On the the bottom of the stones two heavily engraved crossed lines allow them to snap them into place, while a little hump on the black ones make it easy to differentiate them from the white.
During the first two days of the tournament a new prototype of the Universal Go Board was being demonstrated and Ranka had the opportunity to speak with Tsuchihashi Kousuke, who is responsible of the development of the Universal Go Board.
Ranka: Has any modification been made to the prototype presented at the 29th WAGC?
Kousuke: Yes, the underside of the board has been hollowed out to make it lighter. The go stones have been internally reinforced with brass so that they will not deform, and their weight and shape (height) have been matched to the weight and shape of ordinary go stones.
The pins on the go stones that fit into the go board have been strengthened so that they do not break as easily.
Ranka: Has production started?
Kousuke: Not yet, first, we need to fix its problems and complete the design.
Next we will have to fabricate a metal mold to use in production, but that will be quite expensive.
We are considering looking for a sponsor or applying to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for a grant. The mold will not be used to manufacture products at the University, but if there is an enterprise, NPO, or other group that is interested in manufacturing and marketing, we would transfer the mold and legal rights to them without charge. That is the scenario that could lead to commercial production, but I don’t know when it will happen.
If possible, I’d like to see it happen in one or two years.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
A video illustrating the Universal Go Board is available here.
Amusement Industrial Research Laboratory
Osaka University of Commerce
4-1-10 Mikuriya Sakae-machi Higashiosaka-shi, 577-8505, Japan
Phone: 06-6618-4068 (from overseas: +81-6-6618-4068)
Fax: 06-6618-4069 (from overseas: +81-6-6618-4069)