Machine versus Rubik's Cube: ARM Lego robot prepares to smash own puzzle-solving record

Will the Lego-based robot Cubestormer beat its own Rubik's Cube record?

Cubestormer 3. Image: ARM

Using robots to make smartphones in factories is an important business, but sometimes there are bigger things for them to do — such as solving a Rubik's Cube.

The Lego-based Cubestormer robot is taking on the Rubik's Cube again this year, with its makers hoping to smash a two-year-old record for a robot solving the puzzle in 5.2 seconds.

As the name suggests Cubestormer, now in its third iteration, has just one mission: to solve the Rubik's Cube. The Cubestormer 3 pod is about the size of a large pumpkin with eight Lego Mindstorms EV3 bricks performing motor sequencing and control. Once the cube is in its grip, the robot handles the puzzle with the speed a spider bundles its prey up for a meal. 

Come Sunday at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, England, the ARM-based Cubestormer 3 will attempt to beat the 5.2 seconds that it took its predecessor Cubestormer 2 to solved the puzzle in 2011. It's come along way since 2010, when it took the first Cubestormer 12 seconds to solve Rubik's Cube

Of course, the new Cubestormer will have a few technical advantages over its older brothers — chiefly, being 2014, its eyes and brains consist of a Samsung Galaxy S4 instead of the Cubestormer 2's Galaxy S2.

"The new robot can think three times faster than its older brother," Dominic Vergine, head of corporate responsibility at ARM, said in a statement.

The older robot had a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 based Samsung Electronics' Exynos 4 Dual application processor in a Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone whereas Cubestormer 3 comes with an Galaxy S4 equipped with an Exynos 5 Octa application processor and an eight-core ARM big.LITTLE implementation featuring four Cortex-A15 and four Cortex-A7 processors.

The latest Cubestormer was built over 18 months by co-designers David Gilday, a principal engineer at ARM, and Mike Dobson, a security systems engineer for Securi-Plex.

"The record-breaking attempt is a bit of fun for us," Gilday said. "Our real focus is to demonstrate what can be achieved with readily-available technology to inspire young minds into taking a greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We’re already seeing robot technology deployed widely in the manufacturing industry but there is now potential for robots to cope with disruption.

"You can easily imagine a robot able to deal with minor surgical procedures or perhaps even a Michelin-starred robot chef? While the human brain is still far more powerful than any processor, it would be fantastic to see technology with real human-kind benefits being created by someone inspired by seeing Cubestormer 3 in action."

Unfortunately for any would-be gamblers out there, Lego has already shown off the new machine in Denmark, where it beat the 5.2 second record by nearly two seconds. You can see the robot in training here.

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