Dissection of the Intel® Play™ QX3™ Computer Microscope

“Wow, it can do all that for $99 (USD)?” is the reaction
of many people upon first seeing the Intel Play™ QX3™
Computer Microscope in action.
Unlike regular optical microscopes, the QX3 has no
eyepiece to look into. Instead it has a built-in camera that
sends live video images of specimens or small objects at
10x, 60x, or 200x magnification to the PC via a Universal
Serial Bus (USB) connection. The creativity software of
the QX3 then allows scientists of all ages to easily view,
capture, modify, and share images, videos, and time-lapse
movies.
Unlike most commercially available microscope systems
that offer on-screen viewing, the QX3 provides
photomicrography at an affordable price along with
additional functionality. Furthermore, the QX3 was
designed for children; this translates into a device that is
extremely easy for everyone to use.
So how did we do it? This paper examines the
interworkings of the QX3 Computer Microscope,
including both hardware and software aspects. It will
become clear that a consumer product in the smart toy
space is a complex, yet delicate balance between
designing for “low cost” and remaining true to the vision
of the product.

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