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A Lego Robot Just Solved A Rubik's Cube In Less Than Four Seconds

Although the rather strange looking Cubestormer 3 took a year and a half to build, it only needed 3.253 seconds, breaking the previous world record by a staggering 2.017 seconds. That's actually quite a bit, if you stop to think about it; that's a 35% speed increase over the previous record-holder, the Cubestormer 2. It's also considerably faster than the first Cubestormer, which took approximately twelve seconds to solve the puzzle. 

Okay, so the record-breaking puzzle cracking's a bit less significant when you consider the fact that ARM Engineer David Gilday and Securi-Plex security systems engineer Mike Dobson were breaking their own record (but only a bit). It's still significantly faster than the current human record-holder, Mats Valk of the Netherlands (who clocked in at 5.55 seconds). So how exactly did they shave that extra two seconds off? 

"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," said Gilday. "In the end, the hours we spent perfecting the robot and ensuring its motor and intelligence functions were properly synchronized paid off. Our big challenge now is working out if it's possible to make it go even faster."

The CubeStormer 3 - which was unveiled at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, U.K. - is constructed from Lego blocks, and uses a Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone modded with a special ARM chip as its 'brain.' Using this chip, it analyzes the Rubik's cube and powers each of its four hands, which spin the cube until all sides are properly colored. Watching the above video, it's hard not to be at least a little bit impressed. 

Setting the world record for solving a Rubik's Cube apparently wasn't enough for Gilday and his partner, either. Two other smartphone-powered machines set new times for solving a 4x4x4 cube (one minute, 18.68 seconds), and for completing the 9x9x9 cube (34 minutes, 25.89 seconds). So, uh...by now, you're probably wondering about the point of all this, right? What practical use could such a machine have?

Well, aside from looking really cool, a robot that's capable of solving puzzles with such alacrity is actually quite sophisticated. It thus wouldn't be all that difficult to adapt such a machine for a number of real-world implementations, such as manufacturing, food preparation or even surgery. According to Gilday, that's ultimately what he and Dobson are trying to accomplish with Cubestormer. At the very least, they want to inspire a generation of designers to try carrying out some experiments themselves. 

"The record-breaking attempt is a bit of fun for us," explained Gilday. "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."

In other words, this puzzle solving robot could easily lead to the development of a host of new problem-solving robots; machines able to think practically and perform complicated procedures with relative ease. Not only that, this robot was constructed entirely out of Lego. Imagine what engineers could do with industrial-grade materials.

It's an exciting thought, isn't it?