SAN JOSE, Calif. – Atmel claims it is among the first with a new crop of capacitive-sensing controllers supporting haptics for a range of consumer and embedded uses. The QTouch controllers supporting 14 haptic effects with technology licensed from Immersion Corp. are sampling now and in production in May.
Specifically, Atmel will offer an AT42QT1085 eight-button device and AT42QT2165 and QT1085 16-channel slider/wheel controllers. They consume 3.8 milliwatts in active mode and cost as little as $1.50 in thousands.
Renesas showed similar devices using Immersion technology at last year's Embedded Systems Conference. Other touch-screen chip makers including Cypress and IDT are expected to have similar parts, and still others--including a startup in Korea--have also shown such devices.
"I would argue [haptics have] taken off because they are in almost every smartphone, and all tablets have them except the Apple iPad," said Patrick Hanley, a product marketing manager at Atmel, who said he doesn't know why Apple has not adopted the technology.
"Consumers are now comfortable with haptics, and we are seeing much more pull for the technology from other markets such as automotive, medical and industrial," he said.
Atmel hopes to differentiate itself by leveraging its existing MaxTouch capacitive-sensing technology, its eight-bit AVR microcontroller and the Immersion technology. "Anyone can drive an actuator, but the intelligence comes in delivering a good effect and Immersion has proven they are a market leader," said Hanley.
To give OEMs a leg up, Atmel developed prototype designs with actuators and power amps.
Atmel has tested two 3.3 volt actuators with its controller. The Sanyo NRS-257 4i targets devices up to 150 grams, and the Jinlong Z6DL2A017000B serves devices up to 200 grams. Atmel also tested the Johnson Electric 1999-1MB0037EO which serves devices up to 300 grams and runs on 5 volts.
"There are a lot of actuators available, and others will work but these have been tested and proven to be effective," said Hanley.
Likewise, Atmel tested two Texas Instruments power amplifiers to drive the actuators—the TI TPA6205A1DGN and the TI DRV8601. "These two amps do a really good job because they can drive the actuator clockwise or counterclockwise to create different effects, and they can be over-driven to help give an immediate response," he said.