Tag Archives: Touch Technology

Your touchscreen can now seamlessly transition between hover, finger and glove touch

The new maXTouch mXT641T family is the industry’s first auto-qualified self- and mutual-capacitance controller meeting the AEC-Q100 standards for high reliability in harsh environments.

Optimized for capacitive touchpads and touchscreens from five to 10 inches, Atmel has expanded its robust portfolio of automotive-qualified maXTouch controllers with the all-new mXT641T family. These devices are the industry’s first auto-qualified self- and mutual-capacitance controllers meeting the AEC-Q100 standards for high reliability in harsh environments.


The maXTouch mXT641T family incorporates Atmel’s Adaptive Sensing technology to enable dynamic touch classification, a feature that automatically and intelligently switches between self- and mutual-capacitance sensing to provide users a seamless transition between a finger touch, hover or glove touch. As a result, this eliminates the need for users to manually enable ‘glove mode’ in the operating system to differentiate between hover and glove modes. Adaptive Sensing is also resistant to water and moisture and ensures superior touch performance even in these harsh conditions.

The latest family of devices support stringent automotive requirements including hover and glove support in moist and cold environments, thick lens for better impact resistance, and single-layer shieldless sensor designs in automotive center consoles, navigation systems, radio interfaces and rear-seat entertainment systems. The single-layer shieldless sensor design eliminates additional screen layers, delivering better light transparency resulting in lower power consumption along with an overall lower system cost for the manufacturer.


“More consumers are demanding high-performance touchscreens in their vehicles with capacitive touch technology,” said Rob Valiton, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Automotive, Memory and Secure Products Business Units. “Atmel is continuing to drive more innovative, next-generation touch technologies to the automotive market and our new family of automotive-qualified maXTouch T controllers is further testament to our leadership in this space. Atmel is the only automotive-qualified touch supplier with over two decades of experience in designing, developing, and manufacturing semiconductor solutions that meet the stringent quality and reliability standards for our automotive customers.”

Interested? Production quantities of the mXT641T are now available. Meanwhile, you can learn all about the entire maXTouch lineup here.

This smartwatch turns your skin into a touchscreen

Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group, Skin Buttons are touch-sensitive projected icons made on a user’s skin.


While smartwatches are a promising new interactive platform, their small size makes even basic actions cumbersome. As a result, the Carnegie Mellon team has designed a new way to “expand the interactive envelope around smartwatches, allowing human input to escape the small physical confines of the device.”

Using tiny laser projects that are integrated into the smartwatch to render touch-sensitive icons allows for the expansion of the interaction region without increasing device size, and more importantly, sacrificing precious real estate on a wearer’s arm.

“Maybe in 15 or 20 years you’ll have a device that’s as powerful as a smartphone but has no screen at all,” explained Chris Harrison, Head of the Future Interfaces Group. “Instead it’s like a little box of matches that you plunk down on the table in front of you and now all of a sudden that table it interactive. Or a watch that’s screen-less. You could just snap your fingers and you whole arm becomes interactive.”

The proof-of-concept implementation can be used for a range of applications, many of which typically found on a mobile device, such as accessing music, reading emails and text messages, as well as checking the time or setting an alarm.

The prototype smartwatch contains four fixed-icon laser projectors along with accompanying infrared proximity sensors. These are connected to an ATmega328P based Femtoduino board, which communicates over USB with a host computer. Additionally, a 1.5-inch TFT LCD display is driven from a host computer. While the team used an external computer for prototyping, it appears that a commercial model would be self-contained.

“If you put a button on your skin, you expect people to be like, “What the, this is totally insane!” Harrison told Wired. “But actually people don’t generally react like that. People think it’s cool but they get over the coolness really fast and just start using it.”

Interested in learning more? You can access the team’s entire paper here, or head over to the Future Interfaces Group’s official website.

Electronic Design talks touch with Atmel’s Patrick Hanley

Electronic Design Technology Editor Bill Wong recently had the chance to catch up with Patrick Hanley, Atmel Product Marketing Manager for Touch Technology, to talk about recent market trends as well as the company’s latest offerings. The interview, which was published on September 26, 2014, can be found below.


Wong: What markets does Atmel play into?

Hanley: Atmel focuses on industrial, consumer, communications, computing, and automotive markets. We provide the electronics industry with complete system solutions by leveraging one of the industry’s broadest IP technology portfolios.

Wong: The world of touch-enabled devices is skyrocketing; from the proliferation of smartphones to tablets, almost everyone wants to tap a screen even if it’s not touch-enabled. What do you think has led to the widespread adoption?

Hanley: With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the general consumer market became more comfortable and aware of capacitive touch-enabled products to infiltrate our lives. For years prior, the idea of a capacitive touch was an unfamiliar concept that consumers were less comfortable with.

Today most individuals approach all displays with the assumption it is touch-enabled. The world of touch can be seen in a vast range of formats and devices, at its most basic levels in buttons, sliders, and wheels, to more advanced touchscreens that provide multiple, true X/Y coordinates. These touch devices also reach a multitude of applications. From GPS systems to wearables to all-in-one PCs, there is a place for touch in all of these devices.

Hanley: The mXT106xT family is a continuation of our T-series family of products. It is aimed at the largest growth touchscreen market, screens between 7 to 8.9-inches. We introduced adaptive sensing, which is a hybrid of mutual- and self-capacitance. This enables the best glove, finger hover sensing and stylus support available, even in the presence of moisture. Adaptive sensing is crucial, as it enables touch classification where the touch controller is able to determine the difference between a single finger, multi-touch, glove, hover, and stylus, and reacts to the user appropriately.

We unveiled several new features including the peripheral touch controller (PTC), the first touch controller that enables capacitive button capabilities within the same controller without compromising any additional x/y-lines. The PTC improves noise immunity, eliminates external components, and simplifies the sensor design. Additional features include voltage triplers and non-HDI (high-density interconnect) packages. The voltage tripler reduces external BOM components, saving the customer space and cost. The non-HDI package enables customers to reduce PCB layers, further reducing costs.

Wong: Sounds interesting. So, we all know device features are everything, starting from the initial touch performance carrying through to everything else that influences the UI. How is Atmel aiming to continue improving these features?

Hanley: The user interface can make or break the success of a product. An intuitive, yet attractive, UI can create demand for products where customers “have to have” these new products. This is the easiest way for an OEM to differentiate their end product.

Improving stylus performance is vital for a variety of applications and vertical markets. Active stylus support is becoming a must-have for higher-end tablets, which are typically identified for professional or artistic uses. Alternatively, passive stylus support is geared toward free-writing capabilities for general users as well as everyday uses. Passive stylus support carries universal stylus capabilities, even as standard as a no. 2 pencil, ultimately revolutionizing the “pen-to-paper” experience.

Atmel also offers features like hover support. We continuously improve range and accuracy while decreasing manufacturing costs through the flexibility of new materials, as well as enable immersive features like advanced gesturing. Features such as hover empower our devices to be able to think beyond the surface, creating the next wave of smart, intuitive products.

Wong: I also see that Atmel’s maXStylus was announced earlier this year at CES. How is this transforming the “pen-to-paper” experience?

Hanley: Historically, to achieve high performance with active stylus solutions, OEMs were spending upwards of $30, adding more inductive layers to the sensor stack-up. The maXStylus is the first capacitive active stylus to provide accurate active-pen performance without an additional sensor layer. This reduces the costs for tablets, laptops, and smartphones while maintaining excellent performance. The result for the user is fewer missing strokes, false detections, longer pen hover range, and more accurate and readable letters and characters. You can even go from using the stylus to your fingers without compromising performance or battery life.

Wong: What upcoming trends and user-interface technologies are you most excited about?

Hanley: Fingerprint security is exciting. It enables improved security with ease-of-use capabilities and more. 3D gesturing is another interesting and popular technology. As seen in the film Minority Report, technologies such as 3D gesturing and motion control allow users to interact with their devices without touching it. It gives you freedom both mentally and physically.

Additionally, Atmel is the leader in sensor hubs, which enable sensor fusion. Sensor fusion leads to more accurate readings of the movements, locations, temperatures, etc., of an object, all while increasing the battery life of the product despite the always-on capabilities.

At Atmel, we believe that these technologies are allowing OEMs and developers to create best-in-class products that let industry leaders create what they have always imagined.

Wong: Atmel recently announced the latest in touch with the introduction of the mXT106xT family. Can you elaborate?

Those interested in reading the complete interview can head over to Electronic Design here. You may also want to check out Patrick Hanley’s recent post on what factors to consider when selecting your next touch-enabled device.


The Atmel Xplained platform is going Pro

By: Eirik Slettahjell – Sr. Development Engineer Atmel

Having been on the team that created the new Atmel® Xplained Pro platform,  let me share some more details about these new boards and the platform we are providing. Xplained Pro is the result of Atmel’s engineers aiming to make life easier for designers working with Atmel MCUs. In other words: designed by engineers for engineers:

“The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human needs and quality of life.”1


SAM4L Xplained Pro MCU board

The Atmel Xplained Pro platform provides the full Atmel microcontroller experience, combining hardware and software. It equips you, the engineer, with a smart platform that makes it easy to excel with the complete application prototype up and running an hour after your boss discusses a new product idea. We want the Atmel Xplained Pro platform to inspire and enable new ground breaking designs and applications.

SAM4L Xplained Pro MCU board details

SAM4L Xplained Pro MCU board details

“How is this possible?”

Atmel Xplained Pro platform is capable of being a product prototype. With the evaluation kits, Atmel Studio and Atmel Software Framework you can put together the complete application prototype – really fast.

Start Atmel Studio and connect the Xplained Pro kit to your computer. You will discover the kit and its capabilities since Atmel Studio knows exactly which Atmel Xplained Pro evaluation kit you connected and what extensions are plugged into the kit. Download applications examples or software building blocks from Atmel Software Framework and build the prototype.

You also get direct access to datasheets and board documentation by connecting your kit to your computer.

Thanks to the embedded debugger, Xplained Pro are easy to use, yet provide powerful debugging capabilities.

You do not have to connect any external debugger or programmer. With only a USB cable connected to your computer you get:

  • Device program and debug with all the same capabilities as Atmel’s standard programmers and debuggers
  • Data Gateway Interface (DGI) for enhanced application data streaming and debug through standard interfaces
  • Virtual COM port (USB CDC) to easily allow printf-style debug and data logging directly into Atmel Studio

The Xplained Pro platform has been designed for flexibility. A standard Xplained Pro header makes it easy for anyone to design extension boards that connect to the Xplained Pro evaluation kits. Available boards can be found here, including IO, prototyping, OLED and segment LCD extension boards.

If you can’t wait for the extension that you want – just make your own.  The Extension Developer’s Kit (XDK) gives you a design guide that tells you everything you need to create an Xplained Pro extension board.

Xplained Pro Extension boards

Xplained Pro Extension boards

The Xplained Pro offering will continuously expand, covering the latest MCUs and technology available. More information about boards and kits is available on Atmel’s web site and can be purchased from one of Atmel’s distributors or at store.atmel.com.


1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (2006). “Engineers”. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition. Retrieved 2006-09-21.

Are Microcontrollers Powering What’s On Your Black Friday Wish List?

Do you plan to brave the crowds and shop for deals on Black Friday (or online, on Cyber Monday?). If electronics are on your shopping list, there’s a good chance that microcontrollers or touchscreen controllers are inside. These versatile, high-performance, low-power devices are workhorses that handle a variety of functions in a variety of products.

The folks at iFixit have taken a close look at a couple of new products featuring Atmel touchscreen controllers. Microsoft’s new Surface tablet contains three mXT154E devices and a mXT1386 device. And Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD has an Atmel maXTouch mXT768E inside.

What kinds of microcontroller-powered electronic products are you eyeing this holiday season?

Futuristic Smartphones — What Will We See Next?

Would you buy a device that unfolds into a tablet computer and folds back up into a flip phone? Or how about a smartphone that curls up along your wrist like a bracelet, when you’re not using it? Interesting article on 10 futuristic phone concepts. Some really imaginative ideas here that we may someday see in the market.

Which concept is your favorite? What kind of phone do you imagine yourself using down the road?

How Touchscreens Have Evolved….and Where They Are Heading

Interesting piece from Mashable about the history of touchscreens. For sure, touchscreens are part of our everyday lives now. Toddlers are growing up adept at using their fingertips to apply commands.

How do you think touchscreens will continue to evolve?