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Phone-driven machine smashes Rubik’s Cube record

17 March, 2014

A machine built from Lego Mindstorms components and controlled by a Samsung smartphone has set a new world record for solving a Rubik’s Cube. The Cubestormer 3, which took its British co-inventors David Gilday and Mike Dobson 18 months to build in their spare time, solved the Cube in 3.253 seconds, beating the previous record of 5.27s set two years ago by the same team.

The record was broken at the Big Bang Fair in the UK, where Gilday also set two more world records with robots that he had built:

•  1 minute 18.68 seconds to solve a 4x4x4 cube, using a machine based on a Huawei Ascend P6 smartphone; and

•  34 minutes 25.89 seconds to solve a 9x9x9 cube – the largest Rubik's Cube ever solved by a robotic machine – using a machine controlled by a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone.

Gilday is a principal engineer at the UK-based processor design company ARM, and Dobson is a security systems engineer for Securi-Plex.

“We knew Cubestormer 3 had the potential to beat the existing record, but with the robot performing physical operations quicker than the human eye can see, there’s always an element of risk,” says Gilday. “In the end, the hours we spent perfecting the robot and ensuring its motor and intelligence functions were properly synchronised paid off. Our big challenge now is working out if it’s possible to make it go even faster.”

The record-breaking machine uses the computing power of a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone powered by an Exynos 5 eight-core ARM-based processor.

The phone analyses the cube, calculates the correct sequence of moves, and instructs four robotic grippers to do the manipulations. ARM processors also power the eight Lego Mindstorms EV3 bricks which perform the motor sequencing and control functions.

“The robot demonstrates just how fast a Samsung Galaxy S4 can think,” says Gilday. “As well as working out the solution, the ARM-powered Exynos processor has to instruct the robot to carry out the moves. This is more complex than it seems because Cubestormer 3 uses a speed cube which allows twists before the sides are fully-aligned. It means the robot is effectively mirroring the same kind of judgement and dexterity that a human speed cuber has to apply.”




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