BBC micro:bit

This man built a robot to play Connect 4 with him

You know that feeling when you absolutely have to play Connect 4?

Wait, is that just me? Surely I’m not the only one who has felt that pang of pain when you realise you can’t play one of the best board games of all time on your own?

Paul Foster knows that pain, so he did something about it.

Foster, a Principal Technical Evangelist at Microsoft, used a BBC micro:bit and a Satellite MicroKit to build a robot that can play Connect 4 with him.

The BBC micro:bit, a small programmable computer that anyone can buy, was used to program the robotic arm, while the Satellite MicroKit, developed by Satellite Applications Catapult, was needed for its camera.


Pupils have used the BBC micro:bit to build rocket cars

The next steps Foster takesĀ are a bit technical, so I’ll let him explain: “There is a camera on the Satellite MicroKit, you can’t see it in the video, which I used to take a picture of the Connect 4 board. By analyzing the photo, I get data on which holes are filled with a disc and what colour those discs are.

“The photo is too big to hold in the memory of the BBC micro:bit, so the photo is first stored on the microSD, and then all analysis is performed on the data stream of the decoded photo as it is read back from the file.

“At the moment each robot move takes 14 seconds, but I expect to be able to reduce this significantly with more development. In total, it took me about four days to build and program.”

Follow that? Thought you would.

Foster only recorded part of the match because, at 14 seconds a move, the entire game took a very long time. But he assures me he won.

But the result is neither here nor there. This an epic battle of wits that rivals the greatest matches between man and machine… maybe.