A new machine breaks the most recent world record for robotically-solving a standard 3 x 3 Rubik's cube puzzle within 0.38 seconds.
Prior to its victory, the previous listed record was 0.637 seconds completed by a robot called Sub1 Reloaded in 2016. The attempt was captured on camera on both regular speed and slow-motion footage, which has yet to be approved by the officials of the record book. Ideally, an individual can solve the puzzle in as little as 19 to 23 moves.
Building A Better Robot
The cube-flipping machine was created by Ben Katz, an MIT robotics student, and Jared Di Carlo, a software developer. According to the duo, the data provided by their tests suggest that the robot could complete the puzzle within 0.25 seconds. However, there are some factors involved that stand in the way of its expected speed.
"The machine can definitely go faster, but the tuning process is really time-consuming since debugging needs to be done with the high-speed camera, and mistakes often break the cube or blow up FETs," explained Katz via his official blog.
"For the time being, Jared an I have both lost interest in playing the tuning game, but we might come back to it eventually and shave off another 100 ms or so."
A Different Configuration
In addition, the creators likewise noted that compared to their machine, human users normally loosen the Rubik's cube puzzle for smoother turns. Experiments with different configurations allowed them to come up with the right level of tightness, which is supposedly a little more than the default.
It appears that the outer sides of the cube tend to shift outward due to the speed of the motors. Therefore, the tightened cubes reportedly fared better during their tests and in their record-breaking attempt.
To compare, Patrick Ponce, a "speedcubing" enthusiast, completed the puzzle in just 4.69 seconds in 2017, which earned him a Guinness World record for a human player. His attempt is remarkably fast but can never come close what a robot can do.
Building A Champion
Katz was generous enough to share the components he and his partner used to create the robot that established speed record. The list includes six Kollmorgen ServoDisc U9-series motors, six custom motor drivers, 2 PlayStation Eye cameras, and 1 Rubik's cube, which he specified to be the cheapest one available. The creator also noted that several cubes were broken during their tuning process.