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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Interactive 8bit Question Block lamp

Ka-ching, ka-ching

Meet the creators

Bryan Duxbury

Adam Ellsworth

Lessons learned

Arduino

TechShop

Circuit boards

Laser cutter

Final steps

What's next?

The Interactive 8bit Question Block lamp is the creation of San Francisco DIYers Bryan Duxbury and Adam Ellsworth. Super Mario Bros. fans should recognize the design, as it's inspired by the blocks Mario smashes in the game to get coins and other loot.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
That's not where the similarities end, however. To turn the light on and off, you can punch (though a gentle tap is preferred and recommended) the bottom of the block, and it will make the coin sound just like the video game. On every eighth hit, you're rewarded with a 1-Up sound.
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Bryan Duxbury (left) and Adam Ellsworth knew each other casually through their open-source Arduino work, but it was at a company Christmas party that the interactive lamp really came to life.
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Duxbury, 28, starting writing code in middle school and works as a software engineer at San Francisco startup Rapleaf. During his free time, he enjoys designing products and came up with the idea for the interactive lamp after tinkering with a laser cutter. However, with a full-time job and two kids, he doesn't have a lot of time to turn his concepts into actual products.
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Ellsworth, 25, spends his days doing rapid-prototyping work for other people's concepts. Ellsworth's girlfriend works with Duxbury at Rapleaf, and at the company Christmas party last year, the two got to talking and decided to work on the lamp project together.
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The next day Duxbury sent Ellsworth information on his concept, and within a week, they had a prototype. The lamp has gone through various iterations and pricing schemes, but it's now sold through the pair's Etsy store, 8BitLit, either preassembled ($75) or as a DIY Kit ($55).
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The lamp is based on a bare-bones version of Arduino, an open-source electronic prototyping platform.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Duxbury and Ellsworth assemble the lamps in San Francisco at TechShop, a membership-based workspace that provides access to tools, equipment, classes, and other resources for artists, inventors, hackers, and other DIYers.
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The two use a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Mill to cut the circuit boards from a large sheet of copper clad. Various components, such as transistors for turning the LED lights on and off, are then applied to the board using solder paste and an oven.
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Meanwhile, the sides of the lamp are cut from a large piece of yellow acrylic using a laser cutter. Previously, Duxbury and Ellsworth also used the cutter to create the question mark motif, but they've now switched to screen-printing for that particular element.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The touch sensor (the large copper piece on the right), along with the speaker and power source, are soldered to the board by hand before the box is closed up and tested for functionality and aesthetics.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Duxbury and Ellsworth starting selling their Interactive 8bit Question Block lamp in January. They say the response has been generally positive, and they haven't ruled out expanding their business to include more accessories and other 8-bit-themed products.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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