HEYKUBE: THE FIRST PROGRAMMABLE KUBE
The Rubik’s Cube is one of the most iconic puzzles there is: We’ve all witnessed our friends and family members trying to solve a 3x3 cube or attempted to solve it ourselves – often giving up on it because it’s just too hard. That’s going to change!
Introducing the HEYKUBE, the first programmable smart cube, which gently guides you through the motions needed to solve the cube. What’s really cool about the HEYKUBE is that it also helps you learn the motions quickly until it’s all nothing but muscle memory.
And if you thought that it couldn’t get better than this, then you’re in for a programmable treat because you can make the HEYKUBE do what you want it to do like light up the LEDs, add fun music tunes, program custom solving instructions, and more. The possibilities are endless.
We spoke with the makers of HEYKUBE, David Garrett and Mehdi Hatamian, and learned how Cypress’ PSoC® 4 is used in the HEYKUBE, what makes the HEYKUBE so amazing, and talked about all the challenges the HEYKUBE team overcame to create this innovative device.
How was HEYKUBE born and what was your inspiration?
We originally built a smart hockey puck for a contest that our company was hosting for employees. We used wireless charging, accelerometer sensors, and the WICED® Bluetooth® chip in the design and created a connected puck. While we ended up missing the deadline of the contest itself, Mehdi and I still had a working prototype, so we thought to ourselves: “What else can we do with this fun technology?” We decided to find a way to use Bluetooth to help solve a cube. The real inspiration was using the LEDs directly on the face of the cube to make it easy to use. We started off developing the cube solver programs and LED controls in python, and quickly migrated to the PSOC module kits. It was a fun challenge to solve both the electronics and the mechanical structure.
How does the HEYKUBE work?
We use Cypress’ PSoC 4 as the brain, since it gives the control of LEDs and rotation circuits with the embedded microcontroller. To solve the cube, you just need to know how the six faces are rotating, keep track of the state, and the PSoC 4 Arm Cortex M0 continuously solves the next solution and prompts the user back to the solved state. The PSoC 4 also made it easy to deploy our Bluetooth Low Energy protocol to control and interact with the HEYKUBE. It connects with our app to allow you to do challenges. You can use a Raspberry Pi kit and Python code libraries to communicate with the device’s core and program custom solving instructions, to change LED light patterns, add sounds, and much more. For example, you could program the notes to the “Happy Birthday” song and download it to the cube, and once the puzzle is solved, it’ll play the song to celebrate your victory. The HEYKUBE has different levels of complexity and is designed to serve as a STEM teaching platform for anyone looking to learn, and it extends as a platform to learn the 300+ patterns it takes to be a speed-cuber!
What were the challenges in the design process? Did the PSoC 4 help address those challenges?
The biggest challenge we experienced was figuring out how to add sensors to the faces of the cube and track what the cuber is doing without ripping the wires apart. On the mechanical side, the focus was to figure out how to get something that was small and free to rotate, but also add the LED lights and wires to sense the rotations of the cube. On the electronics side, the PSoC 4 chip took care of everything. It already had enough pins to add the LED lights and controls in all six faces, so we didn’t have to worry about it. This allowed us to really focus on solving the mechanical side and fitting everything into a small cube. It wasn’t a piece of cake to create, and that’s what made it so much fun.
Will the HEYKUBE connect to other apps or devices? If so, which apps and will there be additional features?
Our Bluetooth Low Energy API is very powerful, and we can connect to our own iOS and Android apps, or through a Raspberry Pi for the open python interface. We are really excited for the next step, we are working on making the HEYKUBE an Alexa gadget device, and in 2021 you see the HEYKUBE interact with your Alexa home device, and really bring the voice interaction with the cube.
Where do you see the HEYKUBE being used most?
The primary use-case of the HEYKUBE is for fun, there really is a simple joy in seeing the 3x3 cube be solved in your hands! The other exciting piece, STEM education, is a huge opportunity. Children and adults can have the cube at home, download the Python code library on a Raspberry Pi, and learn to code on their own. We will release a whole set of examples and tutorials, and we expect the community to release their own programs as well. We noticed that with other smart cubes on the market, users were requesting the makers to open the API to let them customize their smart cube. We decided to do just that with the HEYKUBE.
How can HEYKUBE encourage coding and STEM education for children and schools?
Python is an object-oriented programming with extremely dynamic semantics. That’s what makes it very easy to provide a simple string of code that can be easily edited by anyone. It encourages kids to learn more about logic, build conditional statements, and use the most-basic elements of programming to do very simple things and then graduate to build more powerful programs.