Brian Doom, Director

Accessible Cube Puzzle

March 18th, 2010

UPDATE: copies now available for sale at The Retina Burn shop.

I know this has nothing to do with I WORK FOR NEMESIS or Devious, Inc., but I had to share this:

A few years ago (2002?) I made this “accessible” cube puzzle by simply gluing/drilling an existing cube. The goal was to get an intuitive sense of “where the cubes went” when a face was turned – by holding the back and viewing the front, the cubist can sense all faces at all times. This makes the design ideal for puzzling in the dark (which I did) but also as an enhancement for the visually-impaired without sacrificing usability for the sighted.

Additionally, many “blind” people are not entirely blind, so any bright color differences would help them visually distinguish any two faces. To this end, I removed the red face, replacing it with black, because in dim light it looks too much like orange. Arguably I could have done the same with yellow vs white, or green vs blue, but the textures were different enough it wasn’t necessary.

Note that if I had used a simple braille solution with the labeller, the result is quite unusable – a single turn and a given braille character is read as a different letter, if it isn’t already sideways. And reading braille backwards on the reverse of a cube… tricky.

Each face has a unique color, shape, and texture, with the each face’s modification material chosen for ease of recognition relative to the other faces.

color shape texture made with
yellow round “mushroom” smooth, wood wooden screw-hole (furniture) plug. The wood is close to yellow, anyway! The texture lends a organic feel – my original design concept was to have “pure materials” for each face, but the “metal” face (cut brass) was too much of a pain to get into a uniform shape.
green flat smooth, plastic DYMO label – it’s just R and a number, like “R4”, because it’s reminiscent of electronic schematics (resistors)
blue flat with round fluff circular, fluffy self-adhesive “coaster dot” for under appliances – I couldn’t find anything blue, so I had to settle for green. Although the effect is still easily distinguishable from the green face, this is why I chose the green face to be the default “flat” face.
orange raised circle tacky rubber transluscent self-adhesive non-skid “dot” for under appliances – color stays orange
white raised square (less) tacky rubber self-adhesive non-skid “dot” for under appliances. Fortunately there was a shape much different from the round transluscent dot!
black (formerly red) protruding (screw) metal screw, sandpaper this was the most labor-intensive face – the screws cannot be drilled too far in, because they would interfere with the mechanism. But they must go in far enough to stay embedded in the plastic… the screws penetrate the plastic and are bonded with resin glue in the hole. The sandpaper is glued.

Since then, the cube modification scene has blossomed, with puzzle designers like Tony Fisher and M. Oskar van Deventer using resin casting and 3d printing to make shapes not even based on the original 3×3 Rubik’s cube.