MIT robot solves Rubik's Cube in world record time: 0.38 seconds

This MIT robot solves it faster than any human ever could. It's a world record.

MIT robot breaks Rubik's Cube Record

  • A robot developed by MIT students Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo has set the world record for solving the Rubik's Cube.
  • The fastest human record is held by Australian Feliks Zemdegs, who solved it in 4.22 seconds in 2018.
  • The original-size Rubik's Cube (3x3x3) has 43 quintillion possible combinations – and one solution.


There's a special place in our hearts for the Rubik's Cube. Pop culture icon and shorthand for intelligence, many dabblers have played around with this ingenious toy, and throughout the years there has been a number of competitions, challenges and variations for solving it.

The popularity of the Rubik's Cube can be attributed to the simplicity of its design combined with the mind-boggling complexity of the puzzle; there is one solution out of 43 quintillion possible combinations.

It was only a matter of time before the engineers and roboticists got to tinkering with it. Back in 2016, a robot set a new record for solving the cube in 0.637 seconds. But that wasn't fast enough for some. More recently, two MIT students, Ben Katz, a mechanical engineering graduate student, and Jared Di Carlo, a third-year electrical engineering and computer science student, thought they could one-up that.

"We watched the videos of the previous robots, and we noticed that the motors were not the fastest that could be used... We thought we could do better with improved motors and controls."

They set up a motor actuating within each face of the Rubik's cube controlled by electronics for control. With the assistance of webcams pointed at the cube, custom software determines the initial state of each face. Then, utilizing pre-existing software to solve the Rubik's Cube, the robot was guided to solve the puzzle.

The result? Their robot solved the Rubik's Cube in 0.38 seconds. It's safe to say that no human is physically capable of beating this speed. And we can add another achievement to the list of robots outperforming humans.

The human who has the fastest world record for hand-solving is Feliks Zemdegs. He was able to solve a Rubik's Cube in 4.22 seconds. Which is also nothing to sneeze at. The skills and talents robots are displacing are vast and varied to say the least. Not to mention surprising.

Now, watch the video a few more times and let your inadequate human hands fathom that speed.

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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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