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3D-printed robot shatters Rubik's record (Video)

It's unofficial, but this hacked together machine is a lock to shatter the world record, which was set in November. Here's why this is an interesting bellwether.

In your face, Lucas Etter.

Who's Etter? He's the guy who currently holds the world record for solving a Rubik's Cube. (And he's only 14 years old.)

Etter's record-breaking time, which he posted in November, was 4.90 seconds. Here's the magic moment:

But in what will certainly be the latest entry in the long history of robots doing specialized tasks WAY faster than people, a couple guys in Kansas City, Mo., have built a robot that can unofficially solve the cube in an amazing 1.2 seconds, and sometimes faster.

The device, built by engineers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose, uses stepper motors, webcams, 3-D printed parts, and an Arduino chip. It's all connected to a Linux system running Kociemba, a Rubik's Cube solving algorithm.

Flatland says information from the device's four webcams is fed to the computer, which uses Kociemba to determine a set of moves that will solve the cube very rapidly.

Here's the machine in action, along with some background from Flatland and Rose.

The video is making its way around the web, giving the duo a moment of well-deserved viral fame, but the project is also a significant bellwether.

We've reached a moment when cheap sensors, rapid prototyping via desktop 3D printing, and inexpensive microprocessors are suddenly putting ambitious hardware projects well within the reach of hobbyists, students, and entrepreneurs. The components in Flatland's and Rose's bot can be purchased for a couple hundred dollars. As I've written before, the age of the hardware startup has arrived.

By the way, the previous record for a robot-solve? 2.39 seconds. That one was just set in October, 2015, by a bot built by a high schooler. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Rubik's is a young man's game.