This robot can solve the famous 3D combination puzzle in the time it takes to blink, about 1.019 seconds, beating the previous Rubik’s Cube world record (also set by a robot) of 2.39 seconds.
In the video embedded above, the robot solves the Rubik’s Cube in 1.196 seconds, 1.152 seconds, 1.047 seconds, and then for the grand finale, 1.019 seconds. In the four rounds of solving the puzzle shown in the video, the robot seems to be consistent in its abilities, clocking in between 1 and 1.2 seconds each time.
Software engineers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose created the homemade robot, as reported by Gizmodo, who explained the inner workings of the fascinating puzzle-solving machine.
“Hardware-wise, there’s not much complicated about the robot, built by two hobbyists: there’s webcams, a few stepper motors, and an interface that lets the robot turn the cube. The webcams feed back into a well-known algorithm, which determines the fewest number of moves to solve the cube in the fastest possible time.”
The builders of the Rubik’s Cube robot plan to submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records. While the cube does have little holes drilled into each of its six sides to allow the robot’s arms to turn it, there doesn’t appear to be anything in Guinness’ guidelines that would disqualify it for consideration.
Venturebeat further examines what makes the robot tick. Surprisingly, the process ends up being a spectacular combination of high-tech and low-tech.
“The robot is made up of stepper motors, 3D-printed frames, and four USB webcams hooked up to a PC. The cube is scanned to determine its configuration, the information is fed into the Kociemba Rubik’s Cube solving algorithm, and the robot makes the appropriate moves.”
Notably, the robot can only function when all four USB webcams can visualize the cube. To prepare it for each new round of solving, the cameras are covered up with paper, the Rubik’s Cuba is manually scrambled, and then the robot’s “blindfold” is taken off so it can unscramble its new puzzle.
The algorithm mentioned is a rather well-known program among Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts that run calculations and pinpoints the least number of moves required to solve the cube in a timely manner. Six stepper motors are required to give its lightning-fast turning ability. An Arduino chip was also used, and the entire process is controlled by a PC operating on a Linux system.
The previous robot record was held by a machine built by a high school student in the U.S. If Flatland and Rose’s creation is approved for admission, it would slice the previous time by more than half. According to the Guinness World Records submission guidelines, it would need to meet the World Cube Association (WCA) rules to be considered.
The competition among Rubik’s Cube competitors remains fierce as both humans and machines push the record time lower and lower.
In case you were wondering, the world record for humans is not far behind at 4.90 seconds, according to the official Guinness website, set last November by 14-year-old Lucas Etter from Kentucky while attending the 2015 River Hill Fall competition in Maryland (see the video in the link).
Since its invention in 1974 by Hungarian professor of architecture Ernő Rubik, the Rubik’s Cube (originally called the Magic Cube) has enjoyed a long career and has become one of the most popular and recognizable puzzles ever made. It became a staple of popular culture in the 1980s and won several Toy of the Year Awards. With more than 350 million sold worldwide, today it is the best-selling toy of all time.
[Image via Cbuckley/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0]