SOFTWARE TOOLS: Development Kit for "Plug-and-Play" Touch Screen GUIs debuts - Embedded.com

SOFTWARE TOOLS: Development Kit for “Plug-and-Play” Touch Screen GUIs debuts

ESC, San Jose, Ca. – Amulet Technologies announced today a complete, self-contained development kit for the implementation of interactive, touch-screen graphical user-interfaces (GUI) in new or legacy embedded systems, based on the company's “Plug-and-Play” interactive Color GUI IC.

Amulet's AGB75LC04 Color GUI IC is a fully-integrated, stand-alone, single-chip GUI sub-system that integrates an ARM7 core with a 24-bit, and 800 x 600 pixel LCD controller.

It also includes a resistive touch-screen controller with 4- or 5-wire interface, 160 Kbytes of SRAM, SDRAM controller, power management controller, standard communications interfaces, GPIO and Amulet's embedded Graphical Operating System.

The Graphical Operating System supports 8-bit alpha blending with up to 24-bits of full color, or up to 256 shades of gray, for photo-realistic graphics and a high-resolution PC-like appearance. The LCD controller supports up to 800×600 pixel TFT and STN displays. Communication interfaces include High-speed USB, TWI, UART and SPI.

No OS Required. The Color GUI IC operates independently of the embedded system, requiring no MCU-cycles. It can be deployed in new or legacy embedded systems in a week or less via a simple UART connection.

There is only a very small amount of code to be written on the application side in order to implement the Amulet protocol. Amulet's royalty-FREE, embedded Graphical-OS manages all graphics rendering and servicing of user interaction with external input devices such as touch buttons, sliders, or touch screens.

Amulet's Graphical-OS eliminates the need for conventional operating systems such as Win CE or Linux that would typically be required to run an interactive GUI.

The STK-480272C GEM development kit consists of a 480 x 272 TFT display with integrated touch panel and a controller board with Amulet's Color GUI IC with embedded Graphical-OS, 32 MBit DataFlash memory for graphics storage and 64 Mbit external SDRAM, Amulet development tools and sample GUI source code. The kit also includes a 5V DC power supply, stylus, and USB PC interface cable.

The company's GEM development board includes a development license for Amulet's GEM compiler, which automatically compiles standard HTML files, compresses JPEG, GIF, or PNG graphics, and bundles them into a very small GUI-OS-compatible (.GEM) file. This process is completely automatic and hands-free, literally requiring a few minutes.

In a one-click operation, the embedded engineer selects the main (“home page”) HTML file. The GEM compiler automatically identifies and converts every HTML file and graphic linked to the “main file” into a single Amulet GEM file.

At the push of a single button, the GEM file can then be programmed into the FLASH on the development board so that the GUI can be tested on the LCD exactly as it will appear in the end product.

The GEM compiler allows graphic designers to develop high-end, PC-like, interactive graphical user-interfaces using standard web design tools such as DreamWeaver, FrontPage, Namo, and C-Monkey, then quickly compile and see them exactly as they will appear in the end product.

The GEM tools allow embedded engineers to effortlessly deploy the HTML graphical designs without any cumbersome C-language translation and without jeopardizing the integrity of their embedded control code.

They are spared the complexity of migrating their design to a higher-end microcontroller with Linux or Win CE OS. The only engineering required is setting up a UART-to-UART connection between the system MCU and the Color Graphical OS Chip.

Minimize Cost, Development Time and Power. The only other alternative for implementing interactive touch-screen GUI functionality in an embedded system is to migrate the embedded system to a large, expensive, power-hungry, OS-capable 32-bit microcontroller and to implement a RTOS like Linux or Win CE OS, with associated license fees and royalties.

The graphical portion of the design, usually developed by a graphics team in Flash, must then be translated into cumbersome, code-intensive C/C++ code, which must then be integrated into the embedded control code on the system microcontroller.

A single line of Flash, could translate into hundreds of lines of C-code, so this process grossly bloats the system code. Executing it minimally requires a large 32-bit ARM9/11 MCU with a minimum 200 MHz clock rate, plus at least 32 MB of external flash and 32 MB of SRAM.

The cost of the original embedded system can quickly grow by $30 to $40 for larger MCUs, memories and OS license fees. In contrast, Amulet's Color GUI IC can implement a comparable GUI in 4 MB of external flash and 8 MB of SDRAM, adding less than $15 to the system BOM.

The 200 MHz-plus clock causes power consumption to explode from 6 mA to 100 mA. The development time for such a system can take a year or more and often unwittingly introduces errors into the original embedded control code, requiring extended debugging. The translation of the graphics in to C/C++ code often results in a crude, primitive looking GUI that is quite different from the original conceptual design. C/C++ was not intended for graphic design.

Amulet's STK-480272C GEM Development Kit is available now for an introductory price of $299. The GEM Compiler and GUI Operating System is included in the kit, with no licensing fees for production. Amulet's AGB75LC04 Color GUI IC is available now in 208-PQFP with 17 GPIO and 225-ball LFBGA with 39 GPIO. Prices start at $10 in volumes of 10K units.

A live demonstration of Amulet's GEM development kit is available at AmuletTechnologies.com/GEMDemo. To learn more go to www.amulettechnologies.com.

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