A new iPhone app called CubeCheater helps you solve the classic Rubik’s Cube puzzle toy using a mix of sophisticated algorithms and simple image-recognition technology. CubeCheater sells for $1 in the App Store.
Here’s how it works. You take six pictures of your mixed up Rubik’s Cube using the iPhone’s camera — one photo per side. If you have an iPod Touch, you can also tap in the color combos manually. CubeCheater is able to recognize the placement of each colored square and generate a map of your cube. It then figures out the quickest path to solving the puzzle and gives you a set of easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.
Using software to solve Rubik’s Cube isn’t new. Mathematicians have been bending their brains into virtual cubes since the toy’s debut in the late 1970s, but the math behind the puzzle-solving continues to evolve.
The current guru of Rubik’s computer algorithms is Herbet Kociemba, creator of the open source Cube Explorer software program. Kociemba’s solver software is currently used by computer science students at universities to build cube-solving robots, some of which also use a camera and image-recognition tech to figure out the color patterns.
CubeCheater uses Kociemba’s algorithm to solve scrambled cubes. The app can also be tweaked to solve cubes with nonstandard color variations. CubeCheater even works in reverse; create a virtual mixed up cube inside the app, and it will tell you how to twist a solved cube to match your creation. Could be useful in making pretty geometric patterns.