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Hacking Cube World : Part 1 – Discovery

Posted in Computers,Gaming by Joe Colburn on the February 1st, 2008

The other day, I decided to bust open one of my Cube World cubes to see what’s inside and to begin a plan to hack it. For those who don’t know, they’re little cubes with digital stick men living in them. They come in different characters and you can put a couple cubes together to make them interact like below:

Cube World Animation

Anyway, I’ve had them for about 6 months and I had been meaning to pull one apart and play with it, so I did. Here’s how they come apart:

(This is at your own risk)
1. Unscrew the back screw and remove the back panel / battery cover.
2. You now have access to 4 tiny screws via 4 tiny holes. Unscrew them with a tiny screwdriver.
3. Carefully pull the two halves apart. Careful, they’re still connected.
4. Pull the black connector panels from the inside to the outside.
5. You should now have access to 3 new screws. Unscrew them to pull out the display.
(that’s about as far as I go for now)

Once I got it apart, I realized that although it’s cool and all, I still have no idea what kind of hack I can do to it. First, I tried turning it back on to make sure that everything worked. No problem there. Then I messed with connections, shook him up, etc. I tried all sorts of things to make him do anything other than what is expected out of the box, to no avail. Then I connected him to another Cubie the right way, the wrong way, forwards, backwards, etc. Other than them both getting pissed off and duking it out, everything was fine.

(The whole set of full-sized images is here.)

As you can see, I haven’t accomplished anything too exciting yet. This is where I want your help. What should I do (or try to do) to him to make him work in a much different way than intended? I’m open to any suggestions, but if I wind up with something cool, I’ll give it away here later, so I’ll be trying to NOT break it.


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Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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28 Responses to 'Hacking Cube World : Part 1 – Discovery'

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  1. on February 1st, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Right on, good to see some Tech post’s from you!

    Daily Tech Impressions’s last blog post..Sony’s Flexible OLED

  2. joe said,

    on February 1st, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Yeah… I’m needing to get more out here. Keep watching. There’s more.

  3. Qtpies7~ said,

    on February 2nd, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Now, my brain does NOT work that way. I get so mad at my boys for taking toys and electronics apart! Maybe I should just let them play and see what they can do. Maybe it will make them rich one day, huh?
    Well, they better leave my computer alone.

    Qtpies7~’s last blog post..Friday chores

  4. joe said,

    on February 2nd, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Qtpies7: That’s how it all started for me. I just liked to take thing apart. When I was 9 or 10, I would pull apart my dad’s computer and then I’d have to get it working again before he got home. =) If they really wanna take things apart, the thrift stores are full of used gadgets that are cheap and all the innards follow most of the same principals. Just don’t let them electrocute themselves.

  5. Margaret said,

    on February 3rd, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I’m no help at all — I never take apart my toys. At least not until they break on their own. Then I might take it apart.

    Good luck figuring out your hack!


    Margaret’s last blog post..It’s Tax Time ? What Tax Program Is Your Favorite?

  6. joe said,

    on February 3rd, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Margaret: I’m sure I’ll come up with something, but keep me in mind if you get any ideas.

  7. on February 8th, 2008 at 4:16 am

    It would have been nice if that dog can bite one of that stickies :)

    beautiful minds’s last blog post..Ink catridges, from carrot inks

  8. joe said,

    on February 8th, 2008 at 6:43 am

    It pees on them. That’s just hilarious to see for the first time.

  9. dan said,

    on May 31st, 2008 at 7:48 am

    maybe use t to store things as it must hold a lot of memory?

  10. Aaron said,

    on June 8th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    The most popular Furby hack, from years ago, was to decode its IR communication protocol. Then a Palm Pilot app was written to send specific messages to the little gremlin. So, I would start outside the box and see what can be done to inject messages. Since you already have it open, maybe you can figure out why the instructions say not to use rechargeable batteries. Or, hack a solar cell into the thing. “Green” is very popular right now.


  11. Joe said,

    on June 9th, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    dan: I’m not sure about the memory capacity just yet.

    Aaron: Sounds like a plan. It doesn’t look to easy to reprogram, but then I’m not a chips and circuits kind of guy (yet). One day I’ll have time to figure it out.

  12. steve o said,

    on November 6th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I bought a bunch of these for a party, all great fun, but now they see little use and many of them have dead batteries (perhaps storing them stuck together drains their juice?). At any rate, what would be cool is to power them through a 3v power supply and have them running continuously. The trick I am searching for is how to keep the cubes from going to sleep after 5 minutes. Maybe shorting a switch would do it?

  13. Joe said,

    on November 7th, 2008 at 11:27 am

    steve o: I think the problem is that it’s all hard-programmed. It could be done, I’m betting, but it’d take some serious know-how and advanced tools, I think.

  14. crazy said,

    on November 10th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    make it so two people live in one cube and when u pull it apart they will stay in the cue they are in at the moment

  15. crazy said,

    on November 11th, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    whatif you could make a dog in a no dog cube or reporgram mod.

  16. crazy said,

    on November 13th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    i just invented a hack i call revesral take out the gryo scope put it back in up side down And your charcter is upside down

  17. memals said,

    on January 5th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    hacking the comms seems the best way to go, you do not even have to open the cube. then you should be able to get them to act as if they were stuck together.
    Reprogramming the core data would be cool, instead of stick men have stick women !

  18. Dion said,

    on February 19th, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Maybe if you connect some of the connectors then you can let it come to itself! :) Or you could build in a speaker that can connect to your mp3 player/IPod!

  19. Redsave said,

    on February 23rd, 2009 at 9:08 am

    The cubes make great travel games for kids. Whens part two of your article coming out? I could’nt find any updates!

  20. Ghettomind said,

    on April 26th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I’ve been trying to hack cube worlds to. But I can’t figure out how to do it myself. And i have some ideas:
    You could use some of the parts to make your own cube world out of it. So it can still interact with any other cube world (provided you keep the right stuff for it) And add some extra stuff to it. Make it mess with other cw when it’s’ connected, so its not even a stick person anymore. You could give it the power to kill &fight with other cube dudes. Or make a simple modification; like an off switch. You can make a little conrol pad to make him move around. And eventually multiple screens to add. I also got this idea for this one called a control cube. Something that fiddles with all the different cw connected to it. can make em go through one door and turn up four blocks up. Buttons to control ~slightly~ what happens to a random cube. & if u want, you can sell them.

    I don’t know what you can do with all this. But atleast it can get u thinking.

  21. Ghettomind said,

    on April 26th, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Huh you know. I disasembled a working camera once. You could replace the screen. Try replacing stuff. Just messing around like that could actually spawn a working thing.

    undirect interacting. might work…

  22. Ghettomind said,

    on April 26th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I disasembled a working camera once. You could just randomly add or replace things. Maybe the programs would have equal variables. That means it would work a bit in some way. might work…

  23. yuppicide said,

    on October 1st, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I’d love to see someone hack these apart and make new graphics. I’d then apply new graphics to the outside.

    What comes to mind is “Headbanger”, which is a punk rock stick figure and “Naughty” which does sexual positions.

  24. Stu said,

    on January 12th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    In the first video from 37:30 the inventor explains a bit about how they work

  25. Charlie Stanway said,

    on May 24th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    ive reconfigured the parts so the fireman plays the office game and its all upside down (tyvm to guy who suggested gyroscope

  26. Spinny said,

    on August 17th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    try to somehow hook it up 2 ur computer and program it to do different things, and i like the idea of wen to r together in the same cube they stay together even wen they r apart

  27. RFEFX said,

    on September 28th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Oh these are a complex bunch of circuitry… someone has spent a lot of time programming that chip as what we call “Bit-Banging” to even get the stick figure to show up. before you try to hack these little guys first try to create one from scratch yourself. if you have programming knowledge a simple PIC micro processor would do. then find a nice parrallel LCD display to hook up and make sure you have a spare line for the I^2C (I Squared C) to allow them to communicate between each other. you notice that big black glob of tar on that circuit board? thats the processor, memory, and good that they dont want you to know about .. in geek terms they went the cheap route and put the Proccessor “die” right on the board and sealed it so you dont know what they used. these units as far as i am concerned are unique and un-hackable. good luck though.

  28. neftronics said,

    on December 14th, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I once had a half-hearted attempt at hacking my son’s cubes. I just stuck strips of copper tape over the 3 connections to bring the signals out and stuck 2 cubes together so they would communicate and had a look at the signals on an oscilloscope.
    It appeared that they use asynchronous serial (similar to RS232). The centre connection is ground and the other 2 are TX and RX. I tried reading the data into a PC using an RS232 level shifter but couldn’t hit upon a baud rate which yielded a sensible looking result. I did however see repeating ASCII garbage which shows I wasn’t too far off the mark!
    Perhaps their communication protocol is completely proprietory, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they used a good old tried and trusted one! Perhaps if no-one else has gone down this route then it is some food for thought for you! Good luck.

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