It took Ernõ Rubik more than a month to solve his namesake puzzle the first time. Today, competitive cubers can best the classic brain teaser in less than five seconds, and casual players can do it in minutes. Their not-so-secret weapon is math. Devising or memorizing sequences of moves that accomplish a particular goal--for instance, swapping two corners--is key to cracking your Rubik's Cube. When game designers start stacking more layers onto a standard 3-by-3-by-3-square cuboid, it doesn't change those algorithms much; it just makes the solve mega-tedious.
Few toys have captured the public's imagination quite like the Rubik's Cube. Rubik's Cube references have been made in all corners of popular culture -- from "The Simpsons" to "Being John Malkovich." For the better part of four decades, this small handheld object has tormented those who tried to solve it. Over the years, competitions have been held to see who could solve the Rubik's Cube the fastest by hand. Engineers then started building robots programmed to solve the cube at a lightning speeds.
Whether it's beating us at games like the board game Go or stealing our jobs, the killer combination of artificial intelligence and robots are owning us puny humans left and right. The latest example of a high-tech achievement that will make you feel on the verge of extinction? A robot that's capable of completing a Rubik's Cube puzzle in just 0.38 seconds flat -- which includes image capture and computation time, along with physically moving the cube. Not only is that significantly faster than the human world record of 4.59 seconds, but it's also a big improvement on the official robot world record of 0.637 seconds, as set in late 2016. The 0.38-second achievement isn't yet an official record, but if it manages to achieve the same results under record-testing conditions it certainly will be.
Humans may have gotten pretty adept at solving Rubik's Cubes, but as usual, the machines are coming for us! This machine, invented by Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo (humans!) can solve a Rubik's Cube in roughly half the time of the previous world record, and they claim it can "definitely go faster." A video posted to Katz's YouTube channel shows the machine solving a cube in 0.38 seconds. Seriously, if you take a particularly luxurious blink, you'll miss it. The video slows down to 25 percent of the speed and eventually 3 percent of the speed to show exactly how the machine isolates sides and flips them into place.
And still the new record-holder bested it by more than 40 percent with a surreal .38 second solve. The contraption that managed the feat was built by Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo, who hacked it together in their spare time driven by little more than the satisfaction of solving an engineering challenge. The speed improvement over previous attempts came as a result of the pair's decision to use better motors than previous competitors (Kollmorgen ServoDisc U9-series motors, if you're a hardware nut). The motors are currently making each turn in 15ms, though the rated speed should allow for turns as fast as 10ms. "The machine can definitely go faster," Katz writes in a blog post, "but the tuning process is really time consuming."
A pair of hardware hackers have beat the world record for solving a Rubik's cube robotically, completing the task in almost half the time. The Guinness World Record was set just over a year ago by a Hungarian architect and his'Sub1 Reloaded' machine when it solved a Rubik's cube in 0.637 seconds. That record, however, has now been demolished. Software developer Jared Di Carlo and MIT Biometrics Lab Master's student Ben Katz devised a contraption that can solve a Rubik's cube in a stunning 0.38 seconds. Software developer Jared Di Carlo and MIT Biometrics Lab Master's student Ben Katz built a'Rubik's Contraption' that's capable of solving the complicated puzzle in a mere 0.38 seconds The researchers discovered that they could easily beat the world record by using a different kind of motor on their'Rubik's Contraption.' 'We noticed that all of the fast Rubik's Cube solvers were using stepper motors, and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,' Di Carlo wrote in a blog post.
When future generations look back on 2018 what will they remember? Not much, I suspect, except for this amazing robot that can solve a Rubik's cube in .38 seconds. The video, above, shows the cube in an unsolved position and then the actuators jump into action, slamming squares into place like some kind of crazed version of Will Smith's character in The Pursuit of Happyness. Created by Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo, the project uses set of 6 Kollmorgen ServoDisc U9-series motors and 2 Playstation Eye cameras. The contraption reads the cube, solves it, and then slams the thing around in seconds.
The two bought a generic cube puzzle, since it was looser and would slide easier. They then placed different textured items on each side. One side was left smooth and the other had plastic squares. Another side had scratchy Velcro and the opposite had soft Velcro. The final two sides had squishy craft dots and hard plastic dots.
The son of Paul Christie and Sonya Stagnoli, Ben and his sister Bella are home-schooled students who also take college courses. He'll graduate with an associate's degree from Germanna Community College next spring, at about the same time that he receives his high school diploma. She takes classes at Rappahannock Community College.