Day 6

Even in a digital world, the Rubik's Cube endures, says creator

Canadian toy giant Spin Master announced Tuesday it had successfully acquired the Rubik's brand for $50 million, and while that number might sound surprising to some, it shouldn't. The Rubik's brand, and the company's eponymous toy, remain incredibly popular.

Toy giant Spin Master announced Tuesday it would purchase the brand behind Ernő Rubik's cube puzzle

Ernő Rubik didn't initially create his eponymous cube as a puzzle. Instead, he says the goal was to create "some kind of demonstration tool showing possibilities in 3D." (Szerzoi joggal vedett)

Ernő Rubik says he doesn't think of his eponymous cube toy as an invention, but rather a discovery. 

"I think what I did was nothing else, [I] just discovered the potential of symmetry in space and the symmetries of the cube," he told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "And I was able to create a special kind of construction to demonstrate this."

Created by Rubik in 1974 — and initially sold as the Magic Cube — the Rubik's Cube as it's now known has sold hundreds of millions of units ever since it first went on sale in Hungary in 1974, and the rest of the world in the 1980s. 

Earlier this week, Canadian toy giant Spin Master announced it will acquire Rubik's Brand — the company that holds the trademarks for the words Rubik and Rubik's — for approximately $50 million.

Rubik, who's also an architect and professor in addition to being a game designer, said he didn't initially create the cube toy as a puzzle. Instead, his goal was to create "some kind of demonstration tool showing possibilities in 3D."

He only discovered the cube's potential as a puzzle after recognizing the "huge, astronomical number of scrambled states," as well as the "difficulties to find out your way back from the starting position."

Erno Rubik, the creator of the puzzle, holds a Rubik's cube as he poses during the world's largest Rubik's Cube championship in Aubervilliers, near Paris. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

According to most estimates, there are roughly 43 quintillion ways to scramble a Rubik's Cube, but only one completely unscrambled state. 

"In that sense, it's very close to the real challenges of life," Rubik said. "Sometimes we think we can have success very easily in a few steps, but after that, we realize it's a much more complex task and we need time and effort to succeed." 

Still, puzzle fans have spent millions of collective hours unscrambling Ernő Rubik's cube for almost the better half of a five decades. The cube itself remains incredibly popular today, especially among a subsection of fans known as Speed Cubers.

And even though at one point a substantial swath of families in the U.S. and other western markets had at least one Rubik's Cube lying around their homes, Rubik says new generations continue to "grow up and find the old jokes new."

For his part, Rubik says he believes people are drawn to his cube — even in an increasingly digital world — because "the real world … is important to us."

"It's important for us to have the real materials, not only the artificial ones. It's important for us to eat real food and not artificial ones. And it's important to us to use our mind, not only the computer's," he said. 

As for whether he's surprised about his cube's continuing popularity, Rubik said he was sure the puzzle would endure. 

"What I'm surprised is after 40, close to 50 years, it's, I can say, stronger than ever," he said. "And I hope that will continue with this new collaboration as well." 


Written and produced by Sameer Chhabra.

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