Robot solves Rubik's cube single-handedly

A robot capable of solving a Rubik's cube single-handedly has demonstrated just how far robotics has advanced - but at the same time, experts say, how far we still have to go.

Artificial intelligence lab OpenAI's system used a computer simulation to teach the robot hand to solve the Rubik's cube, running through routines that would take a single human some 10,000 years to complete.

Once taught, the robot was able to solve a cube that had been slightly modified to help the machine tell which way up it was being held.

Completion time varied, the research team said, but it generally took around four minutes to complete the task. In comparison, the human record for solving a 3x3x3 cube single-handedly is currently 6.82sec, held by American Max Park, 18.

However, the robot hand also dropped the cube eight times out of 10, researchers said.

Though it could be dismissed as an attention-grabbing stunt, the feat was another step forward for robotics research.

Many researchers believe that it was an indication that they could train machines to perform more complex tasks; for example, robots that could reliably sort through packages in a warehouse or cars that could make decisions on their own.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Robot solves Rubik's cube single-handedly'. Print Edition | Subscribe