PORTLAND, Ore.—Texas Instruments Inc. muscled into the touch panel frenzy last week when the company announced new models of its ultra-low-power value line microcontrollers with built-in support for touchpads at prices as low as 33 cents.
TI has long been a leader in low-power, low-cost microcontrollers, but until now did not have specific models designed for touch-panel applications.
"Our new Value Line offers the first MCUs from TI with touch pad capabilities," said a TI spokesperson. "The Value Line G2xx2 and G2xx3 series are the first MCU devices with these capabilities."
Competitors have already swamped that market by adapting their microcontrollers to directly interface with touchpads, but adding TI to the fray ups the ante with its massive manufacturing and support capabilities.
According to IHS iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.) the market for touch solutions will top $3 billion in 2011, when touch sensing for mobile phones alone is expected to grow to 400 million units. That market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent, according to HIS.
Freescale has already added touchpad interfaces for both its Kinetis and its ColdFire microcontrollers, Silicon Labs claimed the low-power crown last year with its F9xx microcontroller and QuickSense library of common touchpad software routines and IDT announced its PureTouch technology which it developed after acquiring touch-panel specialists Leadis Technology Inc. in 2009.
Now that TI has claimed the low-power crown for touch-enabled microcontrollers with its MSP430 Value Line models, the competition is heating up. To match its competitors, TI also developed a library of touch algorithms for quickly prototyping capacitive touchpads including buttons, sliders, wheels and proximity sensors. The new touch library also works with TI's family of free downloadable software debuggers and compilers, including Code Composer Studio IDE and IAR Embedded Workbench.
I don't see touchpad capability on this part when I read the datasheets - only cap touch buttons and perhaps sliders. Don't confuse touchpads with touch buttons or touch sliders. Touchpads are full array cap touch sensors that do 2 dimensions with resolutions around 2000 counts in each axis and have very controlled Z sensing. They also have significant filters that deal with noise, ballistics, touchdown, liftoff, accuracy etc.
Now a days touch keys and touch screen have become so essential to any embedded system. All the micro controller vendors are providing inbuilt control interface, it is good that TI also joined the list.
Touch pads and screens are now ubiquitous, but there was a time in the 80's when they were rare birds. I didn't like them: typically, they were big things covering an entire CRT (I didn't like those either, but what was the alternative?) and it didn't take too long before you were trying to clean peanut butter from the touch surface. Way back when, I did work for a medical ultrasonics firm. They would try different methods of building an interface for the practitioners who bought their systems: I purchased (for $4000, I seem to recall) a Fluke touch system over a green CRT. It worked pretty well, but that didn't stop me from programming the "off" pad so that when it was touched, the "off" legend would blink once and move to another area, with the instrument still running. After 5 or so attempts, the instrument would finally shut down. Needless to say, the owner was only partly amused... he was a good guy, and part of the scope he gave us to try new technology extended to (small) jokes on the equipment. Well, touch pads, screens, and so on are here forever; they still get dirty, but we have come a long way, and it would be hard to imagine not having them.