About a decade ago, the launch of the iPhone made a significant change in our daily life. The way of using touch to operate mobile phones played a vital role, allowing us to interact with technology in real time. Although the touch screen has existed for many years before, due to the follow-up of iPhone and other manufacturers, it has finally been welcomed by users all over the world. These products have completely changed the operation mode of our whole society. Now it is difficult for us to adapt to the way of life without these products.
The traditional man-machine interface (HMI) is mainly composed of mechanical keys, knobs, switches and 7-segment LED display or character graphics display. Now it has been replaced by color TFT-LCD screen, including complete sound effects, video, animation and touch functions. Although general-purpose processors (CPUs) keep a certain speed and progress, the computing power used in electronic devices or purpose specific microcontrollers (MCU) has not been significantly improved.
At present, most MCU adopt the old 8051 or arm Cortex-M series kernel, which is mainly used for control and sensing applications. However, most of these MCU are not equipped with graphics processing unit (GPU), just like their expensive and more powerful CPU brothers. Without the ability of touch and real-time interaction, people now expect to obtain the same touch, feel and response user experience as smart phones from electronic devices (whether retail, medical or industrial computers). However, at present, MCU cannot provide the same level of user experience, which needs to be improved.
If the system MCU also needs to process HMI, its processing capacity is bound to be affected and the core tasks need to be transferred. Therefore, it will affect the overall performance. In addition, since the pixels of the display need to be refreshed one by one, a frame buffer and a high-capacity flash memory for storing all graphics data are also required. These components will take up more space, increase power consumption and increase BOM cost.
Through an innovative object-oriented approach, bridgetek’s award-winning embedded video engine (EVE) series chips can solve the technical gap in the field of HMI. The device has powerful GPU, display command processor, JPEG decoder, LCD controller, audio processor and touch processor. When Eve chip is paired with any standard MCU, the HMI of the system will be converted, so users can experience a user experience similar to that of the most advanced smart phones.
Eve can process predefined objects (such as circle, square, beep, etc.) and simplify all image and audio contents required by HMI system. In this way, instead of accessing the details of all graphics or sounds in the HMI, each object is assigned a simple identifier. Therefore, the data transmission involved is greatly reduced, the MCU pressure is reduced, and there is no need for frame buffer and large capacity flash memory. When more complex objects (such as sliders, switches, clocks and meters) are needed, they can be obtained by extending a predefined programming library.
The third generation chip bt81x series of Eve has adaptive scalable texture compression (ASTC) function and powerful independent immediate color rendering function. It can support a display with a resolution of up to 1280×720 pixels, a panel with a diagonal of up to 11 inches, and a capacitive touch screen with up to 5 touch points. Eve can inject new vitality into traditional electronic devices. Through the update of HMI, many applications can benefit from this technology, including point of sale (POS), household appliances, sphygmomanometers, electricity meters, set-top boxes, scientific instruments, elevator control, safety systems, industrial control, GPS navigation equipment, heart rate monitors, vending machines and home automation systems. Figure 1 shows that Eve is connected to MCU through SPI interface, and provides the following examples: a HMI of advanced washing machine; B applied to the intelligent shelf of wine merchants.
Another huge business opportunity lies in the automotive field that needs complex HMI. Eve has obtained a large number of markets in the field of electric vehicles (EV) and automotive after-sales parts. In addition, Eve can also be applied to instrument panel, entertainment information console, side mirror and rearview mirror display, head up projection and rear seat entertainment console.
Nowadays, the market needs a large number of auxiliary displays to assist the central entertainment information console. At present, it is ready to be introduced into the vehicle to make the passengers more pleasant and provide a higher degree of personalization. These can be used for navigation, multimedia entertainment and connectivity. In this case, Eve as an integrated HMI engine can be paired with relatively low-cost MCU to replace the subsystem of expensive application processor, flash memory and DRAM memory. Instead, use a simple and compact solution to make the price more competitive.
Figure 2 shows how Eve should be on the car dashboard. The use of the display as the implementation of the instrument panel replaces the mechanical instrument panel, so the design is more flexible. The driver can easily switch between modern or retro style according to his personal preference. The display can also be switched from standard driving mode to sports mode. The color can also be changed according to the driver’s different tastes.
It also has great potential in vehicle diagnosis. Figure 3 shows how to use Eve in EV’s dashboard. In this application, after MCU obtains information from relevant ECU (engine controller), Eve presents key data (such as vehicle speed, travel, engine speed, battery power and energy regeneration) in real time on the display in the form of vivid animation. It can also be presented in the form of video playback.
Figure 4 shows the seat adjustment HMI. This application uses Eve for graphics processing, displays messages on the display, and processes touch at the same time. You can also configure preferred settings in advance, such as seat position, backrest position, backrest height, etc. These default configurations can be stored and invoked later when needed.
In order to help engineers use Eve more conveniently, the platform provides a comprehensive development kit. It includes Eve screen Designer (ESD), Eve screen editor (ESE) and Eve asset generator (EAB). The use of ESD does not need to consider the underlying hardware, and provides engineers with a complete Eve development working environment. Using visual programming, HMI can be constructed quickly. Ese is an intuitive HMI application for primary / intermediate Eve users. The purpose of this tool is to help users understand the usage of Eve command. Users can drag and drop objects or directly type Eve commands to place objects on the screen to construct a static screen. The built-in Eve emulator can fully display the effect of commands according to the selected screen size and resolution. The EAB application allows users to convert all HMI assets (such as images, audio, video, font data, etc.) into Eve compatible formats.
A variety of utilities are provided to support Eve (including chip and tool chain) to create vivid, colorful and various touch HMI modes to achieve a satisfactory user experience. More importantly, this can be achieved without specifying an expensive processor. The technology has been recognized in an increasingly wide range of applications – including the increasingly popular automotive field.