Cube-tastic just may be the answer to your prayers. That is if you’ve been stumped about what to buy that computer geek child of yours as a holiday gift. Similar to the ever-popular Rubik’s Cube, Cube-tastic is a puzzle cube that combines augmented reality with a step-by-step solution guide.
Made by Pai Technology, Cube-tastic and the other toys in this line are marketed as “technology that doesn’t tear your family apart, but instead brings you closer together” and also as “technology that doesn’t interfere with your child’s education and development, but encourages it.” This writer was curious to see if Pai products lived up to this very tall promise so I agreed to take a look at Cube-tastic.
My first impression of Cube-tastic was that the cube felt good in my hand. You could see and feel that the toy was well made. I looked at the instructions and saw that I needed to download software on my phone in order to play. I didn’t have enough room on my Android phone, so I dumped a bunch of stuff and tried again. This time, I succeeded in installing the software (about 65 megabytes) but the program kept shutting down. I was about to pack it in. Note that my phone is a pretty abysmal specimen.
Luckily for me, number 7 son Yitzchak came home, saw the Cube-tastic sitting forlornly on my bureau and asked, “What’s that?”
He said, “Let me try it on my phone. I have a better phone than yours.”
This was true.
Yitzchak was able to install the program on his phone lickety-split and the app opened just fine on his computer. Now for the moment of truth. I told him to scramble the cube and scan it with his phone.
And wooooooooo, he was OFF. Needed no help figuring out what to do. He just did it, as digital natives tend to do. As he played he was saying, “Whoa. This is so cool.”
Basically, the app uses your phone camera to zoom in on the middle cube and once it gets a good look, the focus area turns a different color. That’s the user’s signal to turn the cube to the side with that color cube in the center. Then you scan that one and it tells you what color cube to find next. After you do this a number of times, Cube-tastic stops to compute the solution. Then you get a guide on how to position the cube as you work through the solution.
Finally, you follow the steps to solve the puzzle. If you make a mistake, you can use the back arrow to go back to the previous step to correct your mistake. You’ll see that you can solve the puzzle in almost no time at all. Which says something about the genius of the programming involved in developing Cube-tastic.
At this point, hearing all the excited hubbub, Number 8 son Asher came over and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. He scrambled the cube much more than Yitzchak had done, so Cube-tastic took slightly longer to compute the solution, but not by much. We all agreed it was amazing that Cube-tastic could spit out a solution so quickly.
What exactly does Cube-tastic teach? Certainly not how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. It’s more like a magic trick, because it solves it for you. But it does show you something about the infinite capability of computers and that the right algorithm can go a long way to dumbing things down. We agreed there’s sheer genius behind Cube-tastic. It’s just really cool computer science.
I asked Pai about their mission in developing these fun products. Amy Braun, Marketing Director for Pai, said, “Our singular goal is to help children grow, develop and play, using our line of tech toys. Our mission is to bring families closer together, and promote creativity using technology.”
As far as Cube-tastic goes, explains Braun, the countless puzzle combinations are great exercise for teaching dexterity and cause and effect to little hands and brains. I can attest that Cube-tastic felt good in my hands. The minute I saw it come out of its neat little package, I wanted to play with it, hold it.
If you buy a Cube-tastic for your child, you’ll certainly be giving your kid an edge. While Pai Technology has been a player in international markets for some years, the company has only just had its U.S. launch this year (2016). Pai really is the new kid on the block when it comes to technology fun.
In addition to Cube-tastic, Pai also markets two other flagship products for the U.S. market: Ocean Pets; which allows children to create their own pets and see them come to life, and Pai Band; a kids activity band that encourages fun and active play. If your child has access to a decent smartphone, these technology toys are to be recommended as well made toys that excite the mind. Happy shopping and um, happy holidays!