MIT students smash the Rubik’s Cube robotic solve time by using Playstation 3 Eye webcams

The classic 1980’s children’s toy, the Rubik’s Cube has remained a staple to this day for scientists, mathematicians and nerds alike. Completing the puzzle in minutes has been achieved by a few bright individuals and in recent years, researchers have trained robots to complete the task in a matter of seconds. Most recently, the Rubik’s Cube has been solved in only 0.38-seconds robotically. That beats the previous record by almost half. Head below to see the video and learn how it was achieved.

MIT researchers Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo first looked at the previous record holder for some inspiration. The record, which was held by a German constructed robot completed the cube in 0.637-seconds in 2016. The two MIT researches noticed the German machine used stepper motors and they thought that they could dramatically decrease the time if they used better they did.

The two students also used a pair of Playstation 3 Eye webcams. They positioned them at opposite ends of the cube to see three faces of the toy. At first. the cameras had trouble telling the difference between red and orange blocks, so the two researchers painted the orange blocks to black to make them stand out a little more for the camera.

Here is the video of the successful result below. Make sure to watch in slow motion to catch exactly how the robot works to solve the puzzle:

“Ohh yeaaah!” Our solve time of 0.38 seconds includes acquiring the image from the webcam, detecting colors, finding a solution, and actually rotating the faces of the cube. In the video, the machine is solving a YJ Yulong Smooth Sitckerless Speed Cube Puzzle that’s available on Amazon for $4.55 Prime shipped.

The MIT researchers expected to destroy many of the cubes in the process, but somehow they only went through four cubes after hundred’s of trials. For each turn of the cube, it took the specialized motors about 10 milliseconds to complete.

You can find video from the two researchers on their blog that includes their unsuccessful trials. You’ll be able to catch videos that have been slowed down to .03 times regular speed showing the Rubik’s Cube shattering.

The two researchers wrote on their blog that their robot could one day beat its own record if finely tuned to do so. They said it can definitely go faster, but at the risk of breaking the cube. There’s also more details on this project on the researchers’ blog.

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