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Touchscreens are everywhere now, but they still don’t work as good as they should. They remain frustratingly unresponsive to finger taps, consume a lot of power, and are bulky.

So Silicon Valley chip maker Atmel is launching a new generation of touchscreen sensor chips that should lead to better touchscreens. The new MaxTouch U series touchscreen microcontroller chips will enable better performance, power consumption, and thinner screens.

The U Series chips support screens ranging from 1.2 inches (for watches) to 10.1 inches for tablets, and everything in between. The San Jose, Calif.-based Atmel has been making these kinds of chips for years. With each new generation, it makes improvements in metrics like better wake-up performance.

Touchscreen use has exploded over the past five years, and Atmel can now package its chips in a space that measures 2.5 millimeters-by-2.6 millimeters. The new chips have features such as active stylus support, low-power for wearables such as watches, passive stylus support (so you can use things like pencils on a touchscreen), and a high hover distance so that you can answer a phone call if you have a wet finger. The touchscreen chips can sense water and reject it as a touch action. And it works with multiple fingers, even if you are wearing gloves.

Binay Bajaj, the senior director of touch marketing, said the company’s expertise in low-power controllers and touch engineering will enable new markets through its new touch chips, which serve as building blocks for cool new gadgets. Atmel has created six new MaxTouch U Series chips. The chips are available in samples today, and production versions will be ready in the third and fourth quarters.


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