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where to get touchscreens for development
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where to get touchscreens for development

by stkmtd on Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:21 pm

Ahoy,

I've been toying with the idea of developing a small business card sized (obviously a bit thicker) electronic support group for people attempting to quit smoking (myself included). I'm wondering if anyone has the word on the best place to get touch screens for development purposes.

Requirements:
- would have to be sturdy (able to withstand bobbing around in a pocket, and possible vibrational forces)
- thin
- power efficient
- a reasonably simple interface (this will be my first display project)
- preferably capacitive (I'm worried a resistive touchscreen could suffer from accidental activation if this project is sitting in someone's pocket)

Any wisdom/resources/pointers to reasonable distributors would be greatly appreciated. I acknowledge getting a single display for prototyping could be reasonably costly, so no need to cheap out too far. Thanks for having a look :)

stkmtd
 
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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by cstratton on Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:03 pm

You probably want to find something like the display out of the htc tattoo small-screen android phone or a nintendo DS screen. Probably you want to do like the phones do and have an unlock pattern to avoid pocket activation, or use a single physical wakeup button.

If by support group you mean people will be posting messages, don't make the screen too small or text entry gets very difficult - the phones are already about as small as is practical.

Speaking of phones, have you considered marketing your idea as a software solution, ie, an android/iphone/blackberry app? This might also be a good way to start and test interest, then you can come out with a hardware device later for those without phones.

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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by stkmtd on Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:42 pm

by support group I mean the device itself will act as a support group. No networked functionality will be a part of the system (though I've considered some kind of wireless protocol for software updates and data dumping).

I haven't even thought of marketing, as this project would be primarily to scratch my own itch. The way carriers gimp "smartphones" in Canada, I've come to call them "dumbphones", and don't have one (until they're a little more hackable). I know there's an app dev platform from RIM that will let you emulate a blackberry, but I don't know if it comes for linux. Developing in a VM might be more effort than it's worth. It's a valid suggestion though.

There won't really be much text entry.

The basic user experience should go something like this:
1. User turns on the device
2. They press the "I'm ready to quit" button
3. User keys in the number of smokes/packs per day (on average)
4. User keys in the cost per pack (on average)
5. Device immediately starts a clock and calculates at any time ciggarettes not smoked/money not spent (I've done this as a simple C program before which would spit out a status line to GNU Screen)
6. At given "breakpoints" the device will beep/vibrate and let the quitter have an interesting fact about their progress (i.e. at 72 hours no longer phyisically addicted, at 2 weeks taste and smell coming back, at x cigarettes: the number you haven't smoked would be the length of a football field end to end, etc.)
7. The user can report to the device when they are feeling strong cravings and the device will remind them of why they decided to quit, what benefits they will lose, and generally try to kill time (often finding a distraction for 5 minutes is enough to thwart the urge, remembering why you quit is also helpful), or offer suggestions for alternative activities. The messages from the device should be personalized (by use of programming software), and reassuring. The device will also congratulate the user for their efforts, and check in with the user periodically (how are you feeling?) if it detects that they are having a particularly craving-loaded day.
8. The user can go home and dump the data to their machine to be further parsed and analyzed by a piece of software on their computer. This may help them realize trends across quit attempts, better enabling them to avoid certain triggers in the future.

One thing I've read about quitting is that it's good to have a support network. Unfortunately, what few friends I do have are smokers (the irony is killing me). As a total geek I have no problems with getting support from an automated tool, so long as I can customize it, and design it to be like the ideal quit smoking buddy.

I suppose "digital quitting buddy" would be a better description than "support group".

stkmtd
 
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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by zener on Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:09 pm

Sounds like a perfect idea for an app as was said. That would be the way to go IMHO.

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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by adafruit_support_bill on Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:28 pm

The app approach would be the easiest, but then practicality is not always the primary concern for a personal project. :wink:

Small touchscreens are available in hobbiest quantities - for a price: http://www.robotshop.com/4d-systems-3-2-qvga-touch-screen-lcd.html

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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by cstratton on Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:41 pm

Linux is the preferred development platform for android (though mac and windows are supported too), you might look at trying to buy a hackable first generation phone like a G1 or magic used and not bother with a gsm plan for it. Also the SDK includes an emulated device that's pretty close.
I think the blackberry dev kit is windows only, and iphone is mac only + $99/year.

You can probably get a used android phone for around $100us which is less than any touchscreen solution and controller interface is likely to cost in single quantity. With extreme care you might be able to get an arduino hooked up to a small phone or game system surplus lcd with a few discrete buttons under it for less than that, but it would be tricky. (Okay, I'm wrong, arduwino's link comes about about the same price as the used phone, if you don't count power supply and battery)

Perhaps the most important question is what part of the project do you want to work on? do you want to build a physical gadget, or do you want to write software and test the algorithm (on yourself)

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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by stkmtd on Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:33 pm

@arduwino: Robotshop is great, I've dealt with them before. The last time my shipment was late they refunded me the shipping fee no questions asked.

@zener: I'm beginning to understand this point of view (for proof of concept, come to think of it I could use a new phone (battery on mine is starting to go flaky))

@cstratton: Ideally, I'd like to do both :) I'm fluent in hardware and software. The LCD is about $79 from robotshop, an atmega would be maybe $5 (I already have some), I have the tools and materials for making boards, and then I'd only have to worry about power and interface. As a bonus, I'd make the system generalized as possible so I could use it as a general dev kit in the future (if I refine my designs later).

Thanks for the input, guys!

stkmtd
 
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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by stkmtd on Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:11 pm

After seeing the 4D systems solution that someone offered (seemed to have a few too many bells and whistles), I started looking at touchscreens on digikey. Is it just me, or are they needlessly vague on demonstrating what the product can do?

I look at some products, and they say nothing about pixel resolution. Are "touchscreens" considered to be merely the layer that send out "click" information? Does anyone manufacture plain-jane touchscreen + display combos without all the fancy proprietary onboard circuitry? What would be ideal would be something with a 4-5 pin header that communicated over I2C or something.

It's just that looking further into the 4D offering, I noticed I'd have to use windows to program the display separately from the micro I'll be hooking it up to (and they're not all that clear on how the programming works either). It'd just be nice if I had something where I could say "make pixel (0,0) light up as RGB(255,0,0)", and just handle all the buffering and whatnot myself.

This project isn't so much about realizing my vision as it is learning to work with a new kind of technology and achieve a vision as the eventual byproduct.

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Re: where to get touchscreens for development

by stkmtd on Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:37 pm

And on further inspection, I had to spend an hour parsing datasheets to find out how a given display was encoding the graphics, and when I tried to find the standard online, I was expected to pay for the specification itself... Now I see why everyone's telling me to buy a smartphone.

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