I never expected this blog to end up so heavy on the robots, but I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a mesmerizing machine. This little robot does one thing, and I find it astounding how few resources it needs to do it. It solves Rubik’s cubes.
Did you ever have that friend when you were a kid who would come over to your house and mix up your cube? They obviously were hopelessly incapable of ever solving it, but they messed it up anyway. Then, out of frustration at being outsmarted buy a mindless lump of plastic, they sought redemption by peeling off all the stickers and putting them back in the right order. The stickers wouldn’t stay of course; I think that glue from the 80’s was made of hooves and gum. If I ever get another cube, I’m painting it.
Now that the geeky kids of yesteryear are growing up and looking for new challenges, they are seeking extra geek cred by building robots to solve the cube. This one is by no means the fastest, but it is truly a pleasure to watch as it gets up close to squint at the cube, then kicks it over for a look at another side. After it has had a good look, it stops for a moment to ponder. Like a scene from Hero (one of the most awesome king-fu movies ever), the real masters fight the battle in their heads, rather than through trial and error. By the time it kicks back into motion to start twisting, it has already visualized the whole solution. There is something about how robots move. It lacks the grace of biology, but it has an eerie jerky precision, like a zombie lurching about in the endless pursuit of brains. The best part about this little guy is that you can make it yourself. It is made from mindstorm lego sets.