Robot Solves Rubik's Cube in 0.39 Seconds Using Old Game Console Parts

Ben Katz/YouTube

Two researchers may have found the solution to building a superfast robot that can solve a Rubik’s Cube, and they used a surprising tool to make it happen. Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked with Jared Di Carlo to create a machine that was able to solve the classic puzzle in just 0.39 seconds. The robot’s record beats Albert Beer’s robot that holds the Guinness World Record for 0.637 seconds.

“The machine can definitely go faster, but the tuning process is really time consuming since debugging needs to be done with the high speed camera,” Katz said in a blog post. “For the time being, Jared and I have both lost interest in playing the tuning game, but we might come back to it eventually and shave off another 100 [milliseconds] or so.”

The pair’s machine used a number of parts to solve the puzzle, but its vision system is perhaps the most surprising component. They used two PlayStation Eye cameras, the optional peripheral used by Sony’s PS3 for select games, to analyze the cube in split-seconds. Launching in 2007 for $39.99, many of them are now gathering dust in storage — Amazon lists used models for around $1 — as the PS4 that launched in 2013 uses a different camera.

Although a forgotten relic of yesteryear’s gaming, the Eye is capable of capturing footage at 187 frames per second under Linux. The hardware was paired with color detection software that identifies the cube’s colors, which then uses Kociemba’s two-phase algorithm to work out a solution. In around 45 milliseconds, the software has read the cube and passed the correct motor movements to the hardware.

Watch the incredible moment below:

To power the fast movements, the apir invested in specialized hardware. The Kollmorgen SevoDisc motors that hold the cube can move 90 degrees in just 10 milliseconds. The cube held in position is a “YJ Yulong Smooth Sitckerless Speed Cube Puzzle,” the cheapest they could find on Amazon. Ultimately, the pair only broke four cubes in their quest to beat the record.

Turns out those old game controllers are good for something after all.