Rubik's Cube steps into the digital age, complete with online battles
Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik's famous puzzle cube has been around for 44 years now, but never like this. The GoCube is a Bluetooth-connected Rubik's Cube dripping with sensors that teaches you how to navigate its 43 quintillion permutations and lets you battle other cubers online.
If you're anything like me, you've played with Rubik's Cubes scores of times in your life. Maybe you learned how to get to the checkerboard pattern. Maybe you lucked up and solved it back from some pretty mixed-up scenarios without really knowing how you did it. Maybe you tried the ol' pulling the stickers off and sticking them back on routine.
Or maybe you got analytical about it and started to really engage your 3D pattern recognition systems. Because the cube is very much a system, and a system that can be learned – well enough to do crazy things like solve three cubes while juggling them in under five minutes, with only 15 seconds to look at them beforehand.
To this day it remains a popular puzzle, bordering on a genuine sport, with national and world championships held frequently for regular and blindfolded 3x3 cube solving, and all the way up to terrifying 7x7 cubes, 12-sided Megaminx puzzles, off-angle Skewbs and all sorts of other variants.
One wonders what the real cubeheads will think of the GoCube. This thing pushes cubing violently into the digital age. It's got a bunch of onboard sensors that can tell exactly what position each piece is in, as well as an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) so it knows its orientation. It talks via Bluetooth to a smartphone/tablet app, which is able to mirror the cube for you in real time.
From there, if you're a rank beginner, the app can teach you the basic steps of solving a cube, in about the most intuitive way imaginable. And that'll help you build up your chops to the point where you can take advantage of the next feature: 1-on-1 cube battles, where you race friends to a solution.
There are other games too, designed to help you improve your dexterity and instincts, or work on your sense of rhythm by cubing to music. And when you solve it, the whole GoCube lights up with a bunch of embedded LEDs.
There are different versions available. The cheapest GoCube (which is still a fairly hefty US$59) enables all the above features, but you'll need to spend US$79 to get hold of the pro-level GoCube Edge, which adds super-accurate time measurement down to the thousandth of a second, as well as advanced statistics, game analysis, offline progress saves for difficult solves, and access to an online GoCube league and worldwide leaderboards.
I am nobody's example of a Rubik's cube fan, but there's something appealing about a device like this that could hold your hand and walk you through to some sort of basic competency on a device that looks like pure random mystery to most people. And Tim from the New Atlas dev team has a great idea for a future edition - spring loading the GoCube so that if your online opponent beats you to a solve, your cube would explode in your hands and fall into pieces. In your face, Eugene!
GoCube is currently live on Kickstarter, with deliveries scheduled to begin in March next year if everything goes to plan. The project's a goer, having already taken more than 30 times its funding target, so looks like this thing is happening.
Check out a video below.