Automotive Knobs and Another ‘Shy’ Display

CES is often described as like ‘trying to drink from the firehose’ for technical journalists. So when I got back from the event in 2020 and picked my highlight and wrote it up, blocking my good friend and Display Daily contributor, Ken Werner, from publishing about the same highlight, I thought I was onto something. I should have known as I had been given a ‘heads-up’ by Mark Fihn, another display industry veteran.

The highlight was a demonstration by SigmaSense, a developer of touch controller technology from Texas. (SigmaSense Looking to Disrupt PCap Touch) I thought the demo was very cool and clearly I haven’t been the only one to be impressed as the firm has since raised $46 million in two funding rounds to develop its technology (SigmaSense Closes $24M Series B Funding Round). Its investors include Foxconn, LG-MRI, E ink, Corning, and GIS. The company also won a Display Component of the year award for its SigmaDrive SDC100 touch controller in 2021. (Society for Information Display Unveils 2021 Display Industry Award Winners)

I was covering a lot of topics in my visit to Display Week this year, and touch wasn’t one of them, but I saw SigmaSense was there and so I briefly stopped to see what was being shown. The SigmaSense technology is very accurate as the core technology does not suffer from the very poor signal to noise ratio of other PCap technology. (there was an invited paper presented about the general approach at DisplayWeek in 2018 (69-4 A Programmable Capacitive Imaging Technique Using Multiple Sigma-Delta Modulators for High SNR Touch Sensor and Pen).

At Display Week, there were a couple of demos – one that was extremely sensitive and tracked a number of fingers merely heading towards the display, another showing edge sensing and ‘over the edge’ sensing for touch and the one I’m going to mention today. The demo was of an object on a touch panel that was using the object itself to trigger and send information to the touch system. That’s not a new idea.

RRA01545 SigmasenseImage:Meko

For a good number of years, I have seen demonstrations, intended for ‘interactive tables’ etc. of objects being placed on capacitive touch displays and the positioning of the object being picked up by the display. However, the systems were not typically particularly sensitive and the the object needed to have something on the base to passively signal to the touch system its identity. There are certainly applications for that. However, SigmaSense was using a rotating control knob on the surface of the display and the display was able to track the rotation of the knob. Other shapes of controller are also possible – such as sliders.

However, the technology with the knob was very impressive. This kind of technology is very attractive and useful for automotive applications and it’s particularly attractive if the sensing is in the display itself without the need to integrate some kind of separate encoder underneath the display surface. That makes integration considerably simpler.

Innolux also showed something similar which I snapped in passing during Display Week. I dug out the firm’s presentation at Touch Taiwan on automotive products, but it doesn’t seem to have included much background.

RRA01554 InnoluxInnolux’s control on the display at Display Week Image:Meko

Finally, as I am catching up with my automotive bits and pieces, I should thank two readers for sending me details of a third version of the ‘Shytech’ film that hides a display behind a film that can look like leather, metal or wood. (A Deeper Dive into the Hidden Display in ShyTech and Another Nervous Automotive Display Teased by AUO). The third demonstration was at Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Blankenbach’s Nuremberg Electronic Display event and the Embedded World event that it takes place alongside. The third version was from Tianma. Thanks to Rudolf Sosnowsky of for the top two images and Jurgen Ooghe of Scioteq for the bottom three in my composite image below.

CompositeComposite Image: Meko Thanks to Rudolf Sosnowsky of for the top two images and Jurgen Ooghe of Scioteq for the bottom three

Anyway, it looks as though there are going to be a number of interesting developments in display controls and in ‘shy displays’ in our cars over the next few years! (BR)