How Better Hardware Revolutionized Cubing
The Rubik’s Cube has majorly evolved in multiple ways over the years. The top factor that has helped revive speedcubing in the early 2000’s has been the hardware improvements. The first cubes in the 1980’s were cumbersome and difficult to handle.
Hardware improvements triggered more interest in twisty puzzles and sparked the invention of better algorithms, thus allowing today’s impressive records.
The first prototype, crafted out of wood, was incredibly clumsy. It required complete alignment for all of the layers in order to turn. Next, came mass production of the toy in the 80’s. These were produced using plastic, but were similarly clumsy to the wooden version. They were difficult to take apart. Check out an unboxing of the original magic cube.
The early 2000’s brought a resurgence of interest to the world speedcubing, and Rubik’s began tinkering with their products to attempt to improve their user experience. However, Chinese companies rivaling Rubik’s created their own DIY kits, which impeded Rubik’s success. These kits were popular through the mid 2010’s, ending when DaYan came out with the more advanced DaYan Guhong V1.
The Dayan Guhong V1 was the first cube to allow reverse corner cutting. This innovation is what allowed Feliks, Max Park, and Yushng Du to set sub-5 records. Next, Dayan released the LunHui which featured the first anti-pop mechanism, a piece called a torpedo. Although this cube didn’t perform well, this was a huge step forward in improving twisty puzzle design. If you pop an edge out of a 3×3 you will notice a piece of plastic that slips under two corners on either side.
A huge improvement to torpedoes was implemented in the new DaYan Zhanchi and the LunHui. These puzzles were a huge hit due to their smoother turning and quality corner cutting.
The next major improvement to speedcubes was the implementation of magnets. Magnets allow more precise twisting of the sides of the cube, which saves precious seconds on solves. The first magnetic cube was the Weilong GTS M. This was so popular that Christ Tan, the manufacturer of the cube began implementing this technology into more cube collections. In 2017 Gan released the Gan 365 Air UM in collaboration with Cubicle Labs. Present day cubes all incorporate magnets as an industry standard.
Since 2016 there are many different variations for cubes with different magnet placement and strength. Gan invented a system that allows the cuber to tension their own cube using GES nuts. GES nuts are plastic nuts that screw onto metal rods that attach to the center of each face. The force placed onto each spring controls the ease of twisting each face.
The latest innovation, also invented by Gan are corner-core magnets. These first were released with the Gan 11M Pro. These allow maximum customization by allowing the cuber to toggle the switch between light, moderate, and strong.
The next major leap in Rubik’s Cube technology was in 2018. The implementation of smart technology opened the market to a much larger audience of non-cubers while also appealing to seasoned cubers. Smart Cubes connect a physical cube via bluetooth to software that displays the position of the cube in real time on screen. These cubes implement circuit boards and gyroscopes that detect the exact position of the cube and translate it on screen. This technology allows players to learn to solve the cube, battle online, and easily track their statistics.
The Rubik’s Connected was the official speedcube used for the Redbull Rubiks Cube World Cup in 2020, the first official competition that was completely held online.
The first famous world record for the 3×3, set in Bucharest in 1982 was 22.95 seconds. Although Minh Thai was a cubing hero, he was limited by two factors: modern algorithms and modern hardware. Today the world record stands at 3.47 seconds by Yusheng Du. Compared to Minh Thai, Yusheng had the advantage of the CFOP method and better hardware.
With continued improvements to hardware and new algorithms, do you think there is a limit for the next world record?