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I'd like to build a lamp for my girlfriend's birthday. The lamp would change colours if she touches the lamp base.

My idea is to use Arduino Nano as the "intelligence" and a line of sensors under the base (which I was thinking of making out a piece of thin wood/bamboo).

What's the best sensor (capacitors? no clue) that would actually pick a signal up from under a manually engineered "wooden" surface?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might be interested in a capacitive touch interface shield for Arduino; the XCTS-8A for example. The thickness of the wood will affect how well any capacitive sensor works. \$\endgroup\$
    – JYelton
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:40

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See http://hackaday.com/2011/11/21/simple-touch-sensors-with-the-arduino-capsense-library/

Ever thought of using touch sensors on your projects but didn’t because it would be too much work? [Paul Stoffregen] proves that it can be pretty easy if you use the CapSense library for Arduino. Here he’s created three touch sensors, connecting them to the Teensy microcontroller with two resistors each. The larger resistor (looks like 4.7 megaohms here) sends a signal through the copper pad which is read by the secondary pin. Here that pin is protected from electrostatic discharge with the 1k resistors. The microcontroller takes a reading by measuring how long it takes the voltage to change on the input pin.

Some microcontrollers (of the sort used in Arduinos) have support for touch sensing.

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