Tag Archives: Atmel Norway

Billions of chips, unlimited possibilities


Vegard Wollan reveals that there are now more AVR chips in the wild as there are people in the world. (Note: A loose translation from Adressa’s recent article.)


Though the slogan “Enabling Unlimited Possibilities” may not be the most modest as they come, why should it have to be? Especially when your company, whose heritage has ties to Trondheim, is at the forefront of the incredibly popular and ever-evolving IoT innovation battle.

Vegard

Vegard Wollan, AVR co-founder and VP of Atmel’s Touch Business Unit, had the chance to catch up with local Trondheim newspaper Adressa to discuss some of his team’s latest developments. One in particular, the maXTouch family of touchscreen controllers provides unprecedented hover and proximity capabilities, where a user no longer is required to touch the display, but instead triggers different functions by simply holding their finger right above it.

Just the other night, several Atmel employees in Trondheim came together to celebrate not only their commitment to the local community but an impressive milestone, namely 7,338,088,583 AVR chips. To put that figure into perspective, that is at least one MCU for each person on Earth.

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“It’s insane! We have the increasing ability to top what we’ve done previously,” Wollan says. “We have been doing this for 20 years and have never had such high production as we do now. In 1999, we thought it was giant milestone to pass 10 million. Now, we have produced 7.3 billion and create about one billion units a year.”

The figure is almost as impressive as the customer list of “little” Atmel Norway, and its tight-knit team of just under 200 employees. Wollan highlights a few of the top tier brands powered by the stalwart microcontrollers, which include some of the largest and most recognizable names out there today. Among those are Google, Microsoft, Bosch, Sony, Samsung, LG, General Motors, Ford, Jaguar and Tesla.

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“And this is just an excerpt. When we started the company in 1995, we dreamed about getting some big customers such as LG or Sony or Mercedes or what not. And now we have this list! So it’s really what we are celebrating and we are madly proud of,” Wollan adds.

Another focus as of late has been on China, and the next generation of gizmos and gadgets coming out the country where Atmel has played an integral role in their development, most notably ZTE and Xiaomi. While both of these manufacturers may not be the most globally known brands (yet), they have contributed millions of smartphones to the consumer market — many of which based on Atmel solutions.

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“Our customers in China have now launching new phones with new technology from us. We have developed a whole new edge-free design for smartphones, so you get the larger screen without the phone being bigger. The screen goes absolutely to the edge with virtual edge buttons without the buttons here. You hold such phone as a camera and phone camera turns on. And pressing your index finger on the top right hand side on, and you take a picture,” Wollan explains.

One of the coolest projects worth mentioning is a recent collaboration with global music sensation, Coldplay, who commissioned the help of the Trondheim team. Wollan goes on to laughingly reveal, “It’s a little funny that one of our engineers have been in the practice room with Coldplay to test our technology.”

Through wireless connectivity, Coldplay has been able to transform its sold-out crowds into brilliant canvas of colorful LEDs, all while providing greater engagement amongst its fans. As concertgoers enter the arena, they are given a flashing bracelet that can be remotely controlled from any PC and pulse to the rhythm of the band’s music.

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“You had to see the whole place light up in flashing, multi-colored bracelets. When we saw it from the stage, we could not believe we had managed to achieve this. It is about everyone, not just about the band and the fanatical folks at the stage, but all of us become part of the show by having a small armband.”

Wollan shares that Atmel is continuing to develop its initiative with Coldplay, but cannot go into more detail at this time. During the celebration of the company’s achievement the other night, employees were even given a chance to experience the wireless wearable devices as they waved their arms to the beat of some tunes.

Intrigued? You can tune-in to the entire segment here!

The robotic troika of Atmel summer interns in Trondheim

Troika: A Russian word for a group of three, and also a pretty good Norwegian chocolate bar.

It’s a safe assumption that most of us have had some sort of experience with summer jobs throughout our years as students. It’s also quite likely that some of us remember these jobs as full of sweat and manual work at a construction site, on a farm or in some kind of warehouse; however, not all summer jobs have to be this way. Today, I received a piece of mail from some of the summer interns at Atmel Trondheim, and from the sounds of it, they have some pretty cool things going on!

The Line Follower

A line follower is a machine equipped with some sort of light-sensitive sensors that follows a line — either a black line on a white surface or vica versa.

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“This project utilizes two Light Dependent Resistors (LDRs) to detect the amount of reflected light from two Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The chassis is made of cardboard and the whole robot is made without any soldering. The idea behind this robot was to introduce some intelligence to a robot in an easy and inexpensive way,” explains Magne Normann, one of the summer interns at Atmel.

The Avoidance Robot

This is an obstacle avoidance-type robot based around the Atmel Abot. All that’s required to build this kind of robot is a platform, two motors/servos, some wires and a distance sensor. However, this particular project has got an additional servo. The ultrasonic sensor is mounted on a servo in front of the robot, and as the servo rotates, the sensor measures the distances in its envorionment and uses this information to choose a path between any obstacles.

avoidancerobot

The Atmel Tank

Have you ever seen one of those USB rocket launchers and wondered if they’re hackable? Well, they are.

“We got our hands on a USB missile launcher, disassembled it, did a reversed engineering and modified it. Then we added Bluetooth connectivity, put it on an Atmel Abot and made an app for it. The app does have both one and two-player modes; one player controls both the vehicle and the turret, and two-player mode where one player controls the car, while another controls the turret,” Magne shares.  

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“Up until now the only way to interface with an USB rocket launcher had been through the complicated USB protocol. Unfortunately not many microcontrollers support this feature. We therefore decided to hack the rocket launcher down to the old school way, so we could control it with simple GPIOs. We opened the launcher up and discovered the unused footprint for a microcontroller. Apparently, initial design was based on using a microcontroller, but somewhere along the way someone decided to go with a die instead. This left the microcontroller pads unused and available for us to use. All we had to do was probe the signals for each command, disconnect the die from the circuit paths and solder our own wires to the microcontroller pads. This way we could use the existing H-bridges and switches without any additional hardware required.”

Magne notes that the tank is currently bringing havoc to the Atmel department located at Tiller, Norway. Interested in seeing it for yourself? The tank will be on display, along with several other Atmel-based projects, at Maker Faire Trondheim scheduled for August 29-30th. Maker Faire attendees will also have the opportunity to compete for the title of Maker Faire’s “Best Tank Commander.”