Tag Archives: capacitive touch

maXTouch U family opens up a world of possibilities for next-gen devices


This new controller family will make touchscreen devices less frustrating and more enjoyable to use.


It’s safe to say that touchscreens have surely come a long way since Dr. Samuel C.Hurst at the University of Kentucky debuted the first electronic touch interface back in 1971. Despite their ubiquity today in just about every device, the technology doesn’t seem to always work as well as it should given recent advancements. As VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi points out, displays remain frustratingly unresponsive to finger taps, consume a lot of power, and quite frankly, are still pretty bulky — until now.

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That’s because Atmel has launched a next generation of sensor chips that will pave the way to much better (and more delightful) tactile experiences for gadgets ranging from 1.2” smartwatch screens to 10.1” tablet displays. Following in the footsteps of its older siblings, the new maXTouch U family will enable optimal performance, power consumption leveraging picoPower technology, and of course, thinner screens.

More apparent than ever before, the use of touch-enabled machinery has exploded over the past five years. As a result, there has been an ever-growing need to develop touchscreens with extremely high touch performance, ultra-low power and more sophisticated industrial designs with thinner screens. Not to mention, the anticipated surge in wearables has also created a demand for extremely small touchscreen controllers with ultra-low power consumption in tiny packaging. Luckily, this is now all possible thanks to the maXTouch U family which crams pure awesomeness in a 2.5-millimeter by 2.6-millimeter space (WLCSP).

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Designers can now build extremely innovative thin and flexible touchscreen designs using single layer, on-cell and hybrid in-cell touchscreens with intelligent wake-up gestures and buttons. What this means is that, the technology can support entry-level smartphones, slick wearable gizmos, super tablets and everything in between on a full range of stack-ups.

Among the most notable features of the U include low power modes down to 10µW in deep sleep for wearables such as smartwatches, active stylus support, 1.0-millimeter passive stylus support (so users can write with things like pencils on a touchscreen), as well as up to a 20-millimeter hover distance (so that a user can answer their phone call with a wet hand). What’s more, the touch controllers can sense water and reject it as a touch action, and works with multiple fingers — even if someone is wearing gloves.

Binay Bajaj, Atmel Senior Director of Touch Marketing, explains that the recently-revelaed series provides all the necessary building blocks for futuristic mobile gadgetry. The chips are available in samples today, while production versions will be ready in the third and fourth quarters.

“Our expertise in ultra-low power MCUs and innovative touch engineering have allowed us to bring a superior series of devices to market that is truly an innovative collection to drive next-generation touchscreens. We are a leading provider of touchscreen devices to a variety of markets adopting capacitive touchscreens,” Bajaj adds.

Let’s take a closer look at the six new maXTouch U devices:

  • mXT735U is the perfect device for the entry level tablet delivering robust moisture support and excellent noise immunity for touchscreens up to 10.1″.
  • mXT640U supports touchscreens up to 6 inches. This device supports 1mm passive stylus support and thin stack support including 0.4mm cover lens for GFF stack, up to 25mm hover detection and moisture resistance.
  • mXT416U delivers extremely high touch performance including 2.5mm passive stylus, excellent moisture support, noise immunity and up to 30mm large finger touch detection.
  • mXT336U is targeted for mid-range smartphone applications, delivering a perfect balance between performance and form factor.
  • mXT308U is geared towards low-end smartphone applications emphasizing simplicity and robustness.
  • mXT144U is designed specifically for wearable applications. The mXT144U features picoPower with 10uW in deep sleep mode and is the smallest hybrid sensing touchscreen controller packaged in a 2.5mm x 2.6mm WLCSP. This device is the ideal solution for today and tomorrow’s wearable devices.

Report: Automotive touch panel revenues to hit $1.5 billion by 2018


Most touch panels for 2017 car models will use capacitive touch technology, IHS report reveals. 


The explosion of touch-enabled screens used in smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices, along with improvements in touch technology, are increasing the demand for touchscreen automotive displays used for navigation, entertainment and online services, climate control, energy efficiency tracking and other activities.

According to a recent study by research firm IHS, the CAGR for global automotive touch panel shipments will average 18% through 2018, with revenues forecasted to reach $1.5 billion. This includes shipments of factory-installed automotive touch panel systems, aftermarket applications, dealer installations, as well as service replacements.

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IHS notes that though projective-capacitive touch (PCT) technology has been a topic of discussion since 2012, adoption is finally expected to begin in 2015 models, which is leading to the charge for touch-panel shipments. That’s because the role of automotive displays is changing. What was once just a simple way to view information from a navigation system or a car audio system, has evolved into a human-to-machine interface (HMI) for devices of in and out of the vehicle.

Due to improvements in the consumer interface, IHS reveals that most touch panels for 2017 car models will use capacitive touch technology, which is expected to surpass the use of resistive technology over the next two years.

Moving ahead, state-of-the-art cars will surely be equipped with multi-touch capacitive sensors typically found in smartphones and tablets, along with capacitive buttons to create a modern look and intuitive use — all of which will be made possible through Atmel’s comprehensive platforms and solutions for in-vehicle HMIs.

iSkin stickers could turn your body into a touchscreen


These Arduino-compatible sensors will turn your skin into a touch-sensitive interface for your mobile devices.


Sifting through a pocketbook for a ringing smartphone during a meeting can be quite embarrassing. Not to mention, trying to precisely tap out a message on your wrist can draw some attention. While modern-day wearables have given users the ability to glance at their calendar, receive texts and pretty much anything else Dick Tracy could’ve envisioned, the usable interfaces offered by these devices tend to be a bit small, thus making it difficult to accurately select buttons or type an email.

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That may soon be a thing of the past if a new experimental project, which is currently being developed by a team of computer scientists from Saarland University and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, is able to catch on. Inspired by recent advancements in electronic skin technology, iSkin is a thin, flexible and soft silicone overlay that is worn directly on the skin allowing the human body to act as an input surface for mobile human-computer interaction.

“The human skin is recognized as a promising input surface for interactions with mobile and wearable devices. However, it has been difficult to design and implement touch sensors that can be placed directly on the skin,” the team writes.

The stickers enable a wearer to receive and deliver commands on-the-sly, thereby controlling companion mobile devices just as any other wrist-adorned gadget would. Better yet, should one of them only be needed intermittently, the sensors can be removed, rolled up and easily stowed when not in use. Because of the flexible material used, iSkin can be manufactured in a variety of shapes, sizes and personalized designs.

Pressure

Potential use cases for the stickers include incoming and outgoing calls, controlling music, typing and sending messages, or just anything else typically done on a mobile device. They’re capable of multi-touch functionality and even recognize gestures.

To receive and transmit tactile input, the iSkin houses electrodes sandwiched between the silicone layers. Projected capacitive sensing uses capacitive coupling between the two electrodes, whereas resistive touch sensing relies upon pressure to create a contact through the permeable spacing layer. Bringing a finger close to an electrode reduces the mutual capacitance, while pressure (such as the pressing of one’s finger) creates contact between both electodes and closes the circuit. A black carbon powder connects the electrodes to one another, allowing them to be situated into any design. Meanwhile, the flexible patch is tethered by a ribbon cable to an Arduino-compatible microcontroller (Teensy dev board), which processes the data and drives the sensor.

Layout

“Integrating capacitive and resistive touch sensing, the sensor is capable of detecting touch input with two levels of pressure, even when stretched by 30% or when bent with a radius of 0.5 cm. Furthermore, iSkin supports single or multiple touch areas of custom shape and arrangement, as well as more complex widgets, such as sliders and click wheels,” the recently-published paper reveals.

At the moment, the prototypes are hard-wired to a computer. However, the team aspires to integrate chips that will let the stickers to wirelessly communicate with other output devices ranging from smartphones to health monitors. Intrigued? You can read the project’s paper in its entirety here. By the way, this remind us… what ever happened to the Circet Bracelet?

Manga Screen is a multi-touch display for Maker projects


Manga Screen is a 4.3″ LCD screen with a capacitive touch panel and HDMI input.


Developed by Oslo-based Maker Elias Bakken, the Manga Screen is a high-definition, 4.3” LCD screen. Powered by USB, the capacitive multi-touch screen can be used with any device that has an HDMI output, including a Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, Odroid and Arduino Tre.

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At the heart of the fully open-source project lies an ATmega16U4, along with several other electronic components including a DVI receiver, a capacitive touch panel controller and an LCD screen.

“The resolution is high for such a small screen with 800×480 (WVGA) and the capacitive touchscreen driver used is the fabulous mXT224 from Atmel. It adds a few bucks more than the Chinese copies, but when you touch it, you will know where that extra money went,” the Maker writes.

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As demonstrated by Bakken’s working prototype, the Manga Screen can be a welcomed addition to a wide-range of applications, such as a RepRap 3D printer display, a DIY automated coffeemaker control panel or a monitor for an array musical projects.

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Interested in a high-res screen for your next creation? You can head on over to its official Kickstarter page, where Bakken is well on his way of achieving his kr65,000 goal.

BeoSound Moment plays tunes that suit your mood


The latest innovation from Bang & Olufsen is an intelligent and sociable music system that integrates your music collection and streaming services into one.


Back at CES 2015, Copenhagen-based Bang & Olufsen debuted their incredibly innovative BeoSound Moment, which integrates sound collections and services into a playful music system boasting what is surely the world’s very first touch-sensitive wood interface. As advocates of both capacitive touch and Internet-enabled gadgets, we couldn’t help but to fall in love with this musical masterpiece. This smart device is packed with a number of features, including the company’s PatternPlay feature, which enables the system to learn the listening patterns of its users, suggest music or programs that fit a specific time, memorize preferences, and make listening both familiar and explorative with access to more than 35 million songs from streaming service Deezer.

Bang and Olufsen BeoSound Moment

“Over time, BeoSound Moment will gradually start to know your taste in music, and be able to play what you most likely want to hear, without you even having to ask. Just like friendship, it only gets better with time.”

With just one touch of the elegant oak panel, music begins to play based on a user’s personal preferences. Indeed, the BeoSound Moment comes in two parts: a dock/base station and a wooden-interfaced wireless control. The detachable, double-sided UI enables two different listening experiences. Those seeking a somewhat more traditional, controllable style should adhere to its aluminum panel, which is equipped with a touchscreen for engaging interaction. In essence, it’s a tablet.

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However, flip it over and users will find an entirely look — an oak side donning wheel control designed for one-touch access to exactly the sound experience that fits the listener’s daily rhythm. The beautiful panel of touch-sensitive wood (embedded with capacitive sensors just under a thin layer of veneer) allows user to have their favorite music flowing from the speakers with just one touch on the wheel.

Since the dual-part BeoSound Moment system is compatible with B&O’s entire range of wired and wireless speakers, the device is capable of integrating digital tunes that best suit a listener’s mood. This works depending on how close their finger is to its center, as the very middle selects from a list of only favorites while the outer parameters tempts listeners to check out more adventurous songs. The MoodWheel is divided into a color gamut that ranges from melancholic blue over a passionate red zone to an energetic yellow area. Combined, these two dimensions on the intuitive MoodWheel offer limitless possibilities for defining your selection of music.

Intrigued? We sure were! You can learn more about the system by visiting its official page here.

This is the world’s lowest power capacitive touch solution

We’re excited to announce the new QTouch® Surface platform for capacitive touch-enabled user interfaces. The new QTouch Surface platform builds on the market-proven QTouch capacitive touch button sensing technology supported by Atmel | SMART MCUs. The new solution includes an on-chip peripheral touch controller (PTC), the cornerstone technology that enables higher performance capacitive touch on Atmel MCUs. Consuming less than 4µA, the QTouch Surface technology is perfect for wearables and other battery-powered applications that require a capacitive touch user interface.

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“User interfaces in consumer products such as wearable/IoT devices, remote controls and PC/gaming controls are being driven by the massive adoption of touchscreens in smart phones and tablets,” explained Geir Kjosavik, Atmel Director of QTouch Product Marketing. “Products in this new category require a surface solution with lower power consumption and higher cost optimization that do not require the performance from higher-end touchscreen controllers. The QTouch Surface platform is the ideal solution to support all these requirements.”

The QTouch Surface solution uses only a fraction of the resources in Atmel | SMART MCUs and can be implemented with virtually zero cost since one Atmel controller can be used for both the application and capacitive touch user interface.

Notable features of the QTouch Surface Platform include:

  • World’s lowest power capacitive touch surface control with a wake-up on a surface touch from a standby current down to 4µA
  • Works with all Atmel | SMART MCUs featuring the Peripheral Touch Control using less than 10% CPU processing power
  • Supports multi touch on the following surface size ranges
  • 2.7” with 2mm touch separation (edge to edge)
  • 5.5” with 14mm touch separation (edge to edge)
  • Scan rates up to 100Hz

A demonstration of the new QTouch Surface platform will be available at CES next month inside booth #MP25760 in the South Hall of the LVCC. Meanwhile, the QTouch Surface platform — including the library firmware, software development tool and plug-and-play hardware kits — will also be on display at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany in late February 2015.

Ford’s new SYNC will be more like your smartphone

Ford has shared that its in-car infotainment system will be getting an overhaul with the newly-revealed SYNC 3, which will add a capacitive touchscreen, an improved smartphone-like interface, enhanced mobile app integration, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the near future.

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First debuting back in 2007, SYNC is Ford’s voice-based car entertainment system that enables drivers to play certain media, connect their mobile devices and audio players, and change the temperature, radio station or make calls via verbal commands. Over the next two years, the carmaker introduced a pair of updated versions, which ushered in new applications including 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Report, as well as traffic, directions and information.

By far, the largest hardware change will be the system’s migration from resistive to capacitive touchscreens. According to Ford, SYNC 3 will feature optimized capacitive screens that offer an experience most consumers are familiar with from their tablets and smartphones. With a quicker response to touch, voice and phone-like gestures, future vehicles will boast multi-touch, pinch-to-zoom and swipe capabilities with modernized graphics.

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“We considered all the modern smartphones and mobile operating systems and created something familiar but unique,” explained Parrish Hanna, Ford Global Director of HMI.

In doing so, SYNC 3 aims to reduce on-screen complexity and prioritize the control options drivers utilize most. As the carmaker notes, a bright background and large buttons with high-contrast fonts for daytime use will help reduce screen washout in the sun. Meanwhile, at night, the display will automatically switch to a dark background to aid in eye fatigue reduction and minimal reflections on the windows.

Phone contacts will be searchable via a simple swipe of the finger to scroll through the alphabet. With “One Box Search,” SYNC 3 users can look up points of interest or enter addresses in much the same way they use an Internet search engine.

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“Simplicity has value,” added Hanna. “Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.”

In addition, an updated AppLink functionality will provide drivers with better control of their smartphone applications from the car’s main display. It automatically recognizes compatible apps on a user’s smartphone, and enables them to be controlled by voice and steering wheel buttons. Take Google Now, Apple Siri and Pandora, for example, which will be available to those who access the system in the car through Bluetooth.

“Overall, AppLink is faster, more responsive and easier to find your apps,” revealed Julius Marchwicki, Ford Global Product Manager, AppLink. “The overall design of SYNC 3 allows for better integration with smartphones – resulting in a more user-friendly experience.”

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The Sync software will also have the ability to be updated via a home Wi-Fi network, assuming that the home’s network is in range.

According to Ford, the SYNC 3 is expected to be launched in new vehicles next year. Interested in learning more? You can find the entire press release here.

Speaking of in-vehicle systems, Atmel’s maXTouch family — known for its superior performance and rich feature set — is now qualified for automotive applications, ranging from touchscreens and touchpads (supporting 2 inches up to 14 inches in diameter) used in center stack displays to navigation systems and radio human-machine interfaces (HMIs). Looking ahead, here’s a sneak peek at what the future holds for center consoles.

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