SigmaSense®, the global leader in touch sensing, delivers silicon and software solutions to the leading display and electronic manufacturers in the world. The Company’s touch solutions significantly reduce manufacturing costs while improving sensitivity 100X for products ranging from mobile phones to large digital signage. This level of performance is also enabling new touch experiences for a wealth of product categories from tabletops to foldable notebooks to retail touchless touchscreens. Headquartered in Austin, Texas and backed by Foxconn, LG-MRI, and Corning among others, the Company’s patent protected technology is well positioned for the large market shifts to OLED displays, ultra-fast gaming response, touchless interactions, and flexible, foldable product configurations.
Share with us about the enormous growth opportunity of touch control as it becomes a standard component for screens of all sizes.
While capacitive touch interfaces began in niche applications such as bowling alleys, mass adoption really began with the iPhone launch in 2007. Since then, touch now drives the user experience on virtually all mobile phones, a sizable percentage of laptops, and in certain large screen markets such as interactive whiteboards, digital signage and kiosks. In total, the touch market now represents more than 1.5 billion units per year with touch modules growing in double digits. As consumers have become accustomed to the user experience on their phones, they expect the same experience on virtually every screen while interactivity increases the engagement and usefulness of many displays.
How is the COVID pandemic affecting the demand for touchless interactions in the public displays, retail kiosks and digital signage?
The pandemic has caused severe downturns in many market segments, but displays and kiosks have been growing substantially to help minimize touch points and avoid person-to-person contact. Retail kiosks represent a large new opportunity as quick service restaurants are improving the user experience, saving on labor costs and satisfying local pandemic restrictions by adding kiosk terminals both inside and in drive-thrus. SigmaSense is able to add touchless interactions above the screen to avoid direct contact while also allowing touch interaction through gloves, cloth or tissues to maintain safety. Supporting such capabilities on sizable screens with gestures can make the user experience both compelling and easy while eliminating the poor audio quality that often afflicts many drive-thru speakers. Public digital signage is similar in being able to convey an engaging interactive experience through a touchless interface. As the pandemic has exploded the use of video conferencing, the user shift toward interactive displays and video continues to propel these markets.
How is your new level of performance enabling new touch experiences for a wealth of product categories from tabletops to foldable notebooks to retail touchless touchscreens?
Each market has its own challenges, but SigmaSense’s breakthrough in signal-to-noise allows high sensitivity using new materials such as polymers while remaining immune from noise due to moisture and other objects. Since Microsoft introduced the concept of an interactive coffee table display in 2007, technical challenges and affordability have eluded the mass tabletop market. Tabletops have issues not found with vertical displays ranging from moisture from drinks, interference from objects, and the desire to track game pieces or poker chips. SigmaSense is able to support tabletop displays by minimizing noise and recognizing objects, while affordably improving the user experience. Foldables have a different set of challenges including the high resistance found in bendable polymers and the variations that are caused by bending. SigmaSense has proven that polymers can even work on very large screens through highly resistive sensors, making touch far more affordable and flexible for any foldable products.
How is SigmaSense overcoming the increasing challenge to make touch operate effectively within the emissions, power, and other noise and environmental constraints imposed on it?
Our patented technology changes the entire traditional path of converting analog signals to digital. Traditional “threshold based” analog sensing requires increasing the signal voltage to get above the noise and then scanning to compare the resulting signal. SigmaSense’s approach provides two-way instantaneous feedback using ultra-low voltages by emitting many signals of varying frequencies and watching for changes in impedance. This fundamentally different approach offers enormous advantages in analog sensing in many markets outside of touch, from automotive and medical, to motors and communications.
How is the SigmaSense approach allowing the display manufacturers to be able to scale without the traditional customization and heavy engineering support for each unique customer design?
Supporting touch on displays has traditionally required a substantial engineering effort for every product, every feature and every change due to the sensitive nature of touch. Even the slightest product changes can impact the impedance at the touch sensor thereby requiring further testing, calibration, and tuning. SigmaSense greatly reduces such engineering efforts by making everything software programmable and in many cases, automatically adjusting to whatever system changes are taking place.This unique capability makes it feasible for display manufacturers to integrate touch across their entire product line and not just adding touch to high-volume mobile phone screens. Through these software capabilities, engineering and design cycles can be significantly reduced while at the same time, lowering sensor costs by improving yields. Sensors can now have much wider variations from one trace to the next or from one sensor to the next without being rejected.
What is the long term vision of SigmaSense? What would you like our readers to remember about your company?
While SigmaSense is highly focused on touch and display markets initially, the Company intends to make a profound impact on analog sensing that goes well beyond touch applications in the future. We see a huge range of opportunities that could benefit including wearables, IoT, medical/bio products, and even electric motors. As we look at new products and where this technology can be applied, the sky is truly the limit and we hope to identify some innovative products and applications that are truly revolutionary and help make the world a better place!