On the other hand, Rubik’s cube loses EU trademark

A robot has broken the world record by solving a Rubik’s cube in 0.637 seconds, at the Electronica Trade Fair in Munich, Germany, according to its makers.

Developed by German tech company Infineon, the machine known as ‘Sub1 Reloaded’ was helped by one of the world’s most powerful microcomputers.

So, how does it work? At the press of a button, shutters are lifted from the robot’s sensor cameras, allowing it to study the positions of the coloured squares and calculate the moves needed so all six sides show a single colour. It then transmits commands to the Sub1 Reloaded machine who then uses the six motor-controlled arms, which are holding the central square of each of the cube’s six faces and twists, taking just 637 milliseconds to solve the puzzle in 21 moves. The robot is so quick that you can barely see the sides moving as it resolves the colours.

In less than two thirds of a second, the entire process was completed and it was only afterwards the number of moves could be counted by checking software readout.

“The hardest part is in processing the sensory information and trying to work out whether it is a situation that requires braking or swerving or ignoring,” said Professor Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield. “It is a bit like asking Sub1 if it is a Rubik’s Cube in front of it or a pile of biscuits that needs to be crumbled for the base of a cheesecake.”

The robot’s time of 0.637 seconds beat the previous world record of 0.887 seconds, set by an earlier prototype of the same machine using a different computer processor.

It says the same powerful computer brain designed to swing over round obstacles is also brilliant at solving spatial puzzles like the Rubik’s Cube, a multicolored three-dimensional puzzle. The Rubik’s cube was devised by Hungarian architect Erno Rubik more than 30 years ago.

A special ‘speed cube’ had to be used to reduce friction between the moving parts and keep the time to a minimum.

Infineon said the World Cube Association – the governing body for Rubik puzzle competitions – had approved its use.

A standard three-sided Rubik’s Cube can be arranged in 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible combinations – but all can be unscrambled in just 20 moves. A variety of algorithms can be used to solve the puzzle, the most well-known of which is the Fridrich Method. But Infineon’s constructor Albert Beer did not design his prodigy with the fewest moves in mind. Rather, he was intent on achieving the best time – he even allowed the “Sub1 Reloaded” a few extra moves to reach this goal.

The human record stands at 4.9 seconds to solve but the robot record was set in February at 0.9 seconds by a machine built by Jay Flatland and Paul Rose, beaten days later by Albert Beer’s Sub1 at 0.887 seconds and then again by his latest effort with the Reloaded unit.

“We realise that quickly solving a Rubik’s cube is not the most urgent of the world’s problems,’ the German company’s spokesman Gregor Rodehueser told MailOnline.

“The robot was developed as a metaphor to show how digital systems are constructed.

“We wanted to show that microelectrics are a great and efficient solution to problems faced by technology.”

Infineon claimed the test had inferences for driverless cars:

Minimal reaction times play an even greater role in autonomous driving. A high data-processing rate is necessary to ensure realtime capabilities with clock frequencies of 200 MHz. As a result of this ability, a vehicle can safely and reliably apply the brakes when it approaches a barrier.

Asked if the team would be attempting to beat their own record, Mr Rodehueser was shy.

“Officially, no, we will be looking for new challenges as a company, and the project was only ever intended as a nice metaphor for technological challenges,” he said.

“But it is a hobby for our machine’s constructor, Albert Beer, so I imagine he will be trying again sometime in the future.”

Albert Beer, the boffin who built Sub1 robot, designed it to find the fastest way to solve the puzzle even if that involves more moves than the minimum theoretically possible.

Rubik’s Cube loses EU trademark battle

Rubik’s Cube lost a trademark battle on Thursday after European court of justice (ECJ) said its shape was not sufficient to grant it protection from copyright versions.

British company Seven Towers, which manages Rubik’s Cube intellectual property rights, registered its shape as a three-dimensional EU trademark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 1999.

However, the court ruled that the EU trademark representing the shape of the Rubik’s Cube was invalid. In May, a judge said the shape did not qualify for trademark protection.
“This judgment sets a damaging precedent for companies wishing to innovate and create strong brands and distinctive marks within the EU,” said David Kremer, president of Rubik’s Brand. The Rubik name is protected and similar toys will not be able to use it.

Simba Toys, the German toymaker had challenged the trademark protection in 2006, claiming the cube’s rotating capability should be protected by a patent, not a trademark. Welcoming the decision, Simba Toys that it would give the company legal certainty while selling its own version of the “Magic Cube”.

The ruling is expected to affect Rubik’s licensed manufacturers worldwide, which include Hasbro in the U.S. and John Adams in the UK, as it could face competition from mass-produced, cheaper imitations. The Rubik’s cube sells 10m units a year.

Source: Techcrunch