A robot has been built capable of solving a Rubik's cube in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 0.38 seconds, beating the current world record and halving the previous fastest time.
Developed by two US-based researchers, the machine was remarkably cheap to build. It 'sees' the colors of the cube through two PlayStation Eye cameras which are compatible with the old PS3 video game console from 2006. Researchers bought the cameras for just $7 online.
They also purchased several $4.55 Rubik's cubes from Amazon, because they were the cheapest they could fine with next-day delivery - crucial, given the powerful robotic managed to break several as it solved them.
Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked on the project with software developer Jared Di Carlo. In a blog post, Di Carlo explained how previous record-holders used stepper motors to rotate the cubes, and he realized that they could do better with improved motors.
The pair's solution, Kollmorgen ServoDisc motors, can rotate a side of the Rubik's cube in just 10 milliseconds, or 0.01 seconds. "It can accelerate insanely fast," Di Carlo says, adding how in each 10 millisecond turn, the motor accelerates from standstill to over 1,000 revolutions per minute.
Di Carlo adds: "Most of the time is spent waiting for the webcam driver and detecting colors." On that note, the pair had to color the orange cubes black as the cameras and software struggled to differentiate them from the red cubes.
The blog post explains how the record-breaking 0.38 seconds "includes acquiring the image from the webcam, detecting colors, finding a solution and actually rotating the faces of the cube."
In that 0.38 seconds the robot performed 20 individual moves, as Rubik's cubes do not allow two sides to move at the same time.
The current Guinness World Record for using a robot to solve a Rubik's cube is 0.637 seconds, set by German engineer Albert Beer in 2017.