The red, yellow, blue and green Rubik’s cube is useless if you’re blind. But a few designers have come up with clever ways to push the game out of the realm of sight and into the realm of touch. Puzzle Universe gathered up these ideas, very few of which are actually for sale. But most of them could be made at home with some glue and a few tools.
Translating color into touch, though, is tricky. Designer Konstantin Datz constructed this slick, beautiful cube with braille each square. But when you turn a braille letter upside down, it becomes a different braille letter. So as the user rotates the cube it becomes impossible to read the colors.
Brian Doom took a different approach:
Doom, a director, converted a Rubik’s cube into a tactile game not just to serve blind people but 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.”
The Doom Cube, as its called, gets around the trouble of rotating a braille letter, since each piece is unique. You can make your own version by following the instructions on Doom’s website.
This Zhilang Chen cube won a design award by gluing different materials to the outside of the toy to give unique sensations for each side. It’s similar to the Doom Cube but a bit more subtle:
This design uses laser cut shapes on the outside of the cube to give each side a different feel:
Whatever senses are brought to bear on these puzzles, the player still has to solve the darn things. No word yet on whether using one of these tactile designs helps sighted people solve the cube faster.
More from Smithsonian.com: