Rubik's Cube has just got to keep twisting and turning.
With the 40 enduring years of rise and fall in the toy industry, with the unfailing devotion to agonize its patrons and problem solvers along the way, the Rubik's Cube has all the right to celebrate.
To commemorate the mostly popular puzzle game in the world, a multimedia exhibition titled "Beyond Rubik's Cube" has opened its halls Saturday at the Liberty Science Center in partnership with Google, featuring interactive displays and a walk down memory lane. The $5 million exhibit is set to go around the globe after its New Jersey run.
"You can call it a toy. It's a puzzle [but] at the same time it has inspired people in so many areas," president and chief executive of the museum (LSC) Paul Hoffman told The Wall Street Journal.
The exhibit includes some fascinating displays such as robot bees explaining the algorithms needed to solve the toy and a 2,300-pound Rubik showing the cube's inner mechanics amuse visitors with their intellectual tidbits. Young children can epxlore a lot of interactive exhibits to test their problem-solving skills.
Artsy and cultural displays give delight to the visitors, too, with the "Haikube" that allows people to create haiku by moving words printed on each of the cube's "cubelets" and the "Groovik's Cube," a 26-foot-tall installation previously made for a festival of Nevada arts and self-expression dubbed as Burning Man, which people can solve via the Internet.
Not to be missed is the historical elements of the exhibit, showcasing the wood blocks, paper clips and rubber bands that Cube inventor Ernő Rubik then used to build the cube in the 1970s.
"It's fascinating how different folks have run with this," Hoffman, who is also the creative director of the exhibit, said.
But the popularity the Rubik's Cube is enjoying today was not something that inventor Ernő Rubik had planned 40 years ago.
A Hungarian architecture professor at the Budapest College of Applied Arts, it was natural for Rubik to build something. The cube was initially a tool to help his students better understand the principles undermining three-dimensional design.
The first prototype was invented in 1974 and it was a wooden cube bedecked with colorful stickers on its sides that twisted and turned but did not fall apart. When it was accidentally scrambled, Rubik discovered its potential.
"I made something I found interesting and my idea was, 'It's good, and I wanted to share it with other people,' " Rubik said forty years later in an interview prior to the 40th anniversary of his invention.
First called "Magic Cubes" or "Buvos Kocka," Rubik's invention, which was twice heavier than the cube we know today, was out in the market with the help of Politechnika.
Slowly, the cube was getting attention. It piqued the interest of the mathematicians who then took the puzzles with them to international conferences. But it was an expat Hungarian entrepreneur who introduced the cube to a toy fair that the Rubik's Cube gained worldwide fame.
When toy specialist Tom Kremer saw the cube, he wanted to sell it to the world. Finally, Ideal Toy Company agreed to be the main distributor of the toy and, in 1980, suggested for a change in name to "Rubik's Cube."
It was a breakthrough in the toy industry, or so they thought.
As soon as it boomed in the toy industry, Rubik's Cube immediately faced an almost demise in 1982, thanks to imitators and the rise of video games. What hurt the cube more was the toy industry's standards back in the 1980s. It's not the typical toy that talks, whistles, cries, shoot, change clothes, a spinoff from a movie or require batteries. It's just a cube that twists and turns, not to mention its agonizing complexity, that violated the basic tenet of modern capitalism: Either you do not underestimate the intelligence of the public or you go broke.
Of late, the Rubik's cube is back for redemption. Competitions on speedcubing, or solving the cube in the shortest possible time, soon sprouted all over the world. Last year, it was Mats Valk of the Netherlands who was declared as the title holder by the World Cube Association for the fastest solving of the Rubik's Cube with 5.55 seconds.
To date, the Rubik's Cube has evolved from the 2x2x2 prototype that its inventor toyed with before coming up with a 3x3x3 version to various shapes such as Rhombic Dodecahedrons to 2x2x3 towers today. Just last year, a newer version of the cube that boasts faster action mechanism and more durable tiles was released.