Not pictured in this video is an overhead camera system that can capture and process video at an astonishing 500 frames per second. It recreates what your brain is subconsciously doing as you play with a Rubik’s Cube in your hands, constantly monitoring the shape, position, angle, and center of gravity of the toy so that the fingers are always positioned properly to provide enough torque to spin the faces of the cube and line up all those colored tiles.


The practical applications of a Rubik’s Cube-solving robot might seem limited at best, but the Ishikawa Senoo Lab’s approach isn’t focused on speed with this solver. The Rubik’s Cube poses a unique challenge for a robot’s capabilities, particularly when it’s being tasked with solving it the same way a human would, using only a few fingers. What’s learned from this research can be applied to countless tasks requiring extreme dexterity, from assembling electronics to performing delicate surgery, and even chopping up vegetables. One day you might even find a dextrous robot running a three-card Monte scam in a back alley.

[Ishikawa Senoo Lab via IEEE Spectrum]