I’m always amazed at how long Rubik’s Cube and its descendants have dominated popular culture. It’s a puzzle that few people solve without just looking up the algorithms, and yet it has held on long past other fads.
And not just held on but evolved. Bluetooth, accelerometers, computer vision algorithms, and ubiquitous smartphones have created a generation of apps and cube puzzles that let you interact with them in new ways.
HEYKUBE is a recent entry into this smart cube space, and evolves the category in a unique way. While other smart cubes have enough onboard sensors to tell an app their state and let the app get the user to a solution, the HEYKUBE sports an actual internal computer that will lead you to a solved state (and from there to a few patterns) via a trail of flashing LEDs. (It also has a companion app that adds some features, but it isn’t necessary.)
That by itself would be a nice feature — it’s certainly handy when you’ve accidentally scrambled a cube and want to get it back without going through the whole solving sequence — but HEYKUBE developer David Garrett drew on his background with STEM education at the Broadcom Foundation to take it a step further “I want to contribute to getting kids interested in science,” he told me in an interview. “I enjoy teaching and doing something that helps. If I’m going to do Bluetooth, I want people to see how Bluetooth works. I really want to build a curriculum around it.”
The end result is a puzzle cube with an embedded computer that you can talk to wirelessly from a Raspberry Pi. “The cool thing about Raspberry Pis and Arduinos is they interact with the physical world,” he says. Technically, an eager enthusiast could get it to work with any computer that supports Bluetooth, but for now the Pi is the only supported platform.
He may have originally wanted people to really understand Bluetooth this way, but the programming model for the HEYKUBE Python library is bound to give some kids (or adults!) new ways to think about programming. My own Raspberry Pi is on the fritz, but looking at the library and talking to him, your programs will go well beyond “do this and do that” but can work with internal instruction queues and match against the cube’s current state. A HEYKUBE coder will be well on there way to understanding how to write their own solver.
And because the Heykube talks to a Raspberry Pi, what your program does is limited largely by your imagination. Want to track your solving times over time? Record the time it takes to solve, write it to a file or database, and plot it. And maybe tweet the time if it’s a new personal best.
If you’ve got a programming enthusiast or a cube enthusiast or both, the HEYKUBE is a smart, compelling product that is sure to inspire cool projects.
This product was sent to me for review