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article imageAugmented reality app lets you solve a Rubik's cube in 20 moves

By James Walker     Jun 3, 2016 in Technology
An undergraduate has written a program as part of his degree that helps you solve a Rubik's cube by overlaying hints on its faces using augmented reality. By putting on an AR headset, you can be guided through completing the puzzle in less than 20 moves.
The program, called Mistr Kostky, was developed by Martin Španěl as part of his bachelor's thesis project at the Charles University in Prague. Španěl intends to release the app in the future, saying it works with most Rubik's cubes but is still a work in progress at the moment.
The app works by overlaying symbols on top of the Rubik's cube that help you to solve the puzzle. Rotating arrows are displayed on the faces of the cube. Following the arrows will guide you towards completing the puzzle.
Španěl explained how it works on his website. It operates in two phases, beginning by scanning the cube to work out its current arrangement. The app is shown the faces in any order. It then automatically corrects any recognition errors before working out how the cube can be solved in less than twenty turns.
When this is done, it begins to display hints to the user. It shows the first turn by overlaying an arrow onto the relevant face of the cube. When it recognises the user has completed the turn, it moves on and displays the next one. This process continues until the puzzle has been solved.
In a Reddit thread, Španěl said he intends to release the code but wants to tidy it up first. "The code is horrible now," Španěl wrote in one comment. Other issues include an inability to recover if the user makes an incorrect turn and an inconsistent, very low framerate.
In future versions of the program, Španěl intends to add different ways of solving the puzzle that aren't focused on using the least possible moves. One Reddit user suggested he turn it into a teaching aid capable of recognising popular Rubik's cube solving techniques, to which Španěl replied "I am definitely going to do that!"
According to Španěl, the current version of the program "functions properly on most cubes." Throughout the process, the only input required from the user is making the relevant turns of the cube. The app relies entirely on a camera to scan the cube and detect when the user has made a move. The cube can be held at any angle throughout the program's execution. It is solved using the two-phase algorithm developed by Herbert Kociemba.
Mistr Kostky is an example of the possible varied use cases of augmented reality. While it does remove the challenge of solving a Rubik's cube, with a few tweaks it could be used to help newcomers learn how to get started. It's possible that similar apps could emerge in the future designed to help you master board games like chess and draughts, spawning a new kind of tutorial app based on hands-on practical experience.
Španěl intends to keep developing Mistr Kosky so it is faster and based on cleaner code. After that, it will get a public release on Android and will be compatible with the majority of Rubik's cubes around.
More about augmented reality, AR, future tech, Apps, Rubik's cube
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