Monday, August 8, 2022

# With the connected cube, I learned to solve a Rubik’s cube

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The Rubik’s Cube has been around for decades. I played with the cube, probably in the very late 80s or early 90s, but never even imagined I could solve one; from fully mixed to perfectly ordered. But wouldn’t it be satisfying if I could? And if not now, with months of social distancing, when?

Fortunately, the Internet allows most of us to solve what was originally an architectural puzzle. Even the impatient, like me. The world record for solving a cube has fallen since 2000 by 20 seconds less than five years old, as pros and enthusiasts, synthesized high speed solutions and combinations of tricks (called algorithms) and shared them with the world. (For a good introduction there is a documentary on Netflix.)

While the answers are already available, a new Rubik’s Cube (and companion app) connected via Bluetooth unveils terminology and simplifies everything in a guided tutorial. The connected cube, unfortunately, will not get me into the world ranking, but now I can more and more reliably solve a Rubix cube, from scratch – without any help.

The Rubik’s The connected cube costs \$ 59, which makes it significantly more expensive than typical Rubik’s cubes, which are typically less than \$ 20. You pay this bounty for a flawless way of learning how to set up your Scrambled Cube and a step-by-step on-track method that will solve it, barring human error.

The only visible difference with a cube that you didn’t solve in your childhood is a cross-shaped recess on the yellow face. This is where you charge the puzzle so that it can connect through Bluetooth. A single charge will last you a good week of attempts to solve the cube. It looks, feels and moves differently just like any other Rubik’s Cube. The magic lies in the companion app. He’s a teacher with infinite patience who can keep up with every twist and, well, mess everything up.

The Rubik’s Connected app is mostly focused on competitive features and speed-solving timers aimed at experienced cubers, with the learning section for the rest of us relegated to the final tab. GoCube, the company behind Rubik’s Connected, has created connected cubes in the past – this is one with some (arguably important) Rubik branding. It also makes a more advanced model which lights up as you progress. It also costs \$ 20 more.

The Solution Guide includes a detailed course that covers the terminology and moves used to get you to your first resolution. It’s a seven-step process (there are faster, more complicated ways to solve it), and you’ll find some steps more complicated than others. At least I did.

Each step is accompanied by at least one video tutorial, as well as a cheat sheet of the combinations of algorithms needed to manipulate the cube.

The best part is that the app is able to keep you on track by offering a way to reverse your mistakes, thanks to a series of twists and turns on the screen, as well as the ability to ‘program’ your cube so that you can repeat any trickier steps until you have them memorized.

After getting my first resolution – which I was far too proud of – there is a practice option in the learning tab that offers minimal guidance to help you work through the cube. If you need more assistance, a light bulb icon will give you a video tutorial of the stage you are working on, as well as the necessary turns.

I have now solved the cube a handful of times and am working on memorizing the process. I can usually decipher the cube in less than three minutes. The more complicated final stages still make me trip over sometimes, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Resolutions under 10 seconds aren’t happening anytime soon, but if I can solve a Rubik’s Cube, you almost certainly can too.