Apple plans on giant touchscreens in your car

I recently came across an article about how Apple is planning to have your automobile use giant touch screens to interact with the driver. Atmel is well-known for its microcontrollers, but we are also big on touch screen chips, like our new maxTouch T-series. The parts use the high-performance AVR core engineers love. This is why they can run big screens like the one Apple is talking about. The parts can do both self-capacitance and mutual capacitance. They work well with gloves, even thick ones.

mitsubishi_touch_sensitive_display

This Mitsubishi curved touch screen uses projection and lasers, complexity that XSense will eliminate.

But what really got me thinking was the thought that stylists will not want boring flat screens. Atmel’s XSense touchscreen is a perfect solution to boring flat panels. We just got qualified for high-volume production by a major electronics OEM at the Colorado factory. I suspect the car folks are beating on the door as well.

You can get a feeling for what XSense can when you look at this video we did last year.

But if you want to see something really beautiful, check out this video of the near future with formable touchscreens:

Here is a re-cut of that beautiful futuristic video.

Now with all that pretty video, perhaps I should put in a little note to my fellow engineers. The deal with XSense is that it uses a microscopic copper mesh instead of ITO (indium-tin-oxide). ITO is brittle, so you can’t bend it. But also remember that it is an oxide, and if you remember sophomore chemistry, oxides don’t conduct. So the XSense mesh is not only bendable, it is far more conductive than ITO. This makes for higher performance. When used with a touch controller chip, it can detect more accurately and much faster. Hover, glove tolerance, all kinds of user interface improvements occur. There are competing technologies that use silver ink, but remember, although silver is more conductive than copper by 7%, the ink is not as conductive, nor, in my opinion, as repeatable and as durable.

Indium-tin-oxide

Note that this slab of indium tin oxide from the Kurt J. Lesker Company is not transparent. You can only see through an ITO touch screen because the film is so thin, which also makes it highly resistive.

The cool thing about XSense is that it can’t be a wire mesh that interferes with the miniscule sub-pixels in a modern LCD. So there is some cool intellectual property in the shape of the mesh so it does not make moiré patterns on the screen. Oh, I forgot to mention, the copper mesh is so small, the panel passes more light than an ITO touch screen.

So, XSense is formable, flexible, higher-performing, and more transmissive. See why we love it? I hope to visit the factory in Colorado soon, where I can see the panels coming off the end of the line. I will keep you posted.

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