A robot built at MIT has reportedly set a world speed record for solving a Rubik's Cube, cutting the previous record of 0.637 seconds (set by another robot in 2016) down to just 0.38 seconds. If robots had grandparents, this one's would be very proud.
The Rubik's-solving robot was constructed at MIT this January by Ben Katz, a mechanical engineering graduate student, and Jared Di Carlo, an electrical engineering and computer science student, at a student-run hacker lab. According to a news release from MIT, the two became inspired when they noticed a design flaw in footage of the previous robot record-holder, a compact sphere of whirling motors created by German engineer Albert Beer. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]
"We watched the videos of the previous robots, and we noticed that the motors were not the fastest that could be used," Di Carlo said in a statement. "We thought we could do better with improved motors and controls."
In their new speed-solving bot, Katz and Di Carlo engineered individual motors to control six metal rods gripping the cube's six faces. Two webcams send footage of the cube to a nearby computer, helping the robot identify which colors fall on which face of the cube at a given time. Working from this information, the robot solves the cube with an algorithm previously used in other Rubik's-solving robots.
In the video above, you can see the whole process in action — just don't blink.
While our fleshy human fingers cannot hope to best the whirling motors and metal grips of robots like these, professional human speedcubers have set some pretty mind-boggling speed records of their own. The current world speed record for solving a Rubik's Cube is held by SeungBeom Cho, who solved a jumbled cube in 4.59 seconds at a 2007 World Cube Organization competition. According to the Rubik's Cube community Ruwix.com, Cho beat the previous world record by just one-tenth of a second.
Members of the machine uprising resistance movement, take heart: Although robots may be much faster than humans at solving Rubik's cubes, flipping hamburgers and climbing up sheer vertical walls, they still look ridiculous trying to open doors.
Originally published on Live Science.
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Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.