I saw this over at Engadget…
The post describes a new variant on the Rubik’s Cube with no moving parts, which uses a microprocessor with embedded LEDs to display colors on the faces, and touch sensors to recognize gestures that allow you to “rotate” those colors. Here’s a picture from the Engadget post:
Now, at a purely pragmatic level, this doesn’t make a lot of sense; why would you replace a perfectly good $5 toy with an electronic version that will cost ten times as much. [ed: Gizmodo is reporting that it will cost $150.] However, It did get me thinking again about intelligent devices…
One way to look at it is that this device is just as a “middle ground” between a purely physical object (i.e. the original toy) and purely virtual expressions of that toy — something like Erno’s Cube for the iPhone:
There’s more to it than that, however.
I don’t know whether the TouchCube would be as satisfying to use to actually play Rubik’s Cube as the original is, but assuming they got the responsiveness right, it’s probably close. The thing is though, once you’ve separated the physical gestures from the resulting visuals, you can then start looking at other uses for it.
Obviously, the TouchCube could be used to play different games; you could, for example, play memory games (à la Simon) on it. If nothing else, this gives it more long term play value.
Now, imagine building in a little more awareness of its surroundings, then you could do things like:
- dim the colors so you can play in bed at night
- play competitively, with feedback from other nearby TouchCubes
- or how about having all faces on the cube flash red when your cell phone gets a call — I could just see it, sitting on my desk, warning me when I forgot to take my phone out of silent mode, with send to voicemail being connected to stroke the top.
The possibilities are endless, but there are pitfalls. If we were going to live in a world where intelligent devices like this are common, we would have to ensure that they followed a common grammer for communication so that we didn’t end up increasing the cognitive overhead unboundedly (“So, my chair just jiggled. Does that mean the phone is ringing, or that I have to lose weight?”). They would also have to communicate with each other to allow the most capable device to provide the information (but also just to avoid being blinded when everything in the room simultaneously flashes at you).
Anyway, there’s nothing new in this ramble; people have been talking about this stuff since the ’60s. The TouchCube just got me thinking about it again, and hopefully this post did the same for you. 🙂