Update: microtouch the 8-bit ipod touch

It looks like [rossum] and [Ladyada] have teamed up and been busy working on the microtouch. Since we covered it last year its had a few minor improvements like an upgrade to the ATmega32u4 microprocessor and some new software. The new and improved microtouch also features an accelerometer as well as some software to go along with it. Plus its now for sale on adafruit for about a quarter the price of an ipod touch (just in case you don’t feel like making your own).

For the unaware the microtouch is a lightweight AVR based ipod touch. It comes with a bootloader which allows you to download your “apps” to the microtouch without the need for an AVR programmer. While it may lack some of the computing power and features of the ipod touch (like music), the microtouch is definitely appealing for its open hardware/software and easy to use touch screen.

58 thoughts on “Update: microtouch the 8-bit ipod touch

  1. Should have bought it when it was listed at $50 instead of $70 :-(

    And…
    I think this would be more useful if there was a pin usable as a chip select on the SPI bus.
    I’d gladly trade the accelerometer to be able to speak to other hardware of my own, because I don’t really want to build an iPod. I want to build an interface to a project of my own.

  2. I am with Matt on this one. This thing would be great if they would have brought out the SPI, IIC or a UART to interface with something else.

  3. @Matt You can plug a SPI device into the microSD slot (there is something in the works on a .8mm pcb that does this) or if you are really stuck you can use the ISP port + overload the LED pin for device select.

  4. Comparing a device that can’t play music to an iPod is stupid. This is an interesting little thing, but every mention of iPods needs to be removed from any material regarding it, imho.

  5. @Zeus – the atmega isn’t fast enough to decode mp3s. I don’t know about wav’s, though.

    Not really comparable to an iPod or iPhone, but still a rockin’ little development platform. Cheap, nice screen, and fun peripherals. Expansion would be nice, maybe that can make it in a v2 board.

  6. @Fallingwater and others

    will you shut the hell up about how its posted and enjoy the damn post!!!!!
    someone always has to nit pick about what someone from HaD posts and the corny little sayings and loose comparisons

    just click the post and enjoy or dont and ignore it!

  7. Do Want! well, that was until i actually read about it. i was thinking it would make a nice gift for my little sisters, an awesome mp3 player.. but it doesn’t do that:(

  8. I NEEED This… expect an amazing project very soon hackaday

    …ps i wonder if you can use the touch screen to write on it

  9. @rossum:
    I had considered using the SD card slot to do what you describe, but I’d prefer to leave as much of the firmware as possible intact.
    Using the LED line is an interesting idea though… Now I’m regretting not having purchased it before the price went up [presumably to the correct price?]… ;)
    And, as always, you have done superb work :-)

  10. I was going to say that the ATmega32u4 wasn’t 8 bit, because it sounds like one of Atmel’s AVR 32 chips, but it turns out it really is an 8 bit AVR.

    That is a confusing part number!

    Also, WHY oh WHY use 8 bit for this? I’ve been learning ARM processors lately, and its pretty much just like an AVR, only WAY more powerful…
    -Taylor

  11. Can anyone chime in about resistive versus capacitive touchscreens? How well will this resistive screen work with gentle presses? From the video it looks kind of like you need to press the screen rather hard for the software to register the touch to register, but maybe I’m wrong…

  12. Weak uController is weak.

    Why would you ever use an 8-bit MCU for something that you wanted to be sleek and high-powered?

  13. This is great… I love all the stuff that Ladyada does!

    I think this would be great with a bigger screen, then there would be more room for a better microcontroller, possible wifi?… endless possibilities!

    I do have to agree with most of the posters, this shouldn’t really be compared to an ipod touch/iphone, “For the unaware the microtouch is a lightweight AVR based ipod touch”, mainly because It can’t do the one thing that most people buy the ipod touch for… PLAY MUSIC.

    I hope they will develop another version that will at the very least play music, or even play Videos :D

  14. I agree with Fallingwater, dont even bother comparing it to an ipod touch. Just say its a small touch screen device/palm alternative or something

  15. For everybody asking about why it’s called “ipod”: the same reason why you MUST have “by the creators of ‘Up’ and ‘Nemo’” instead of “by Pixar studios” everywhere – we are being regarded as way too stupid to remember anything any other way than by a very popular other item.

    Also, this is too big for a pendant-size portable item and too small for a hand-held one. In fact it’s that size only because that’s the most widely available (=cheapest) touch-screen LCD size. Fine if you need it for a stationary enclosure, or just to play with the technology, I guess…

  16. Yes I agree that this should not be compared with an iPod touch simply because it does not contain the iPods biggest feature – playing music!

    But it would not be too hard for someone to work from this development platform and add mp3 player capabilities if they wanted to. You can read a few threads on AVRfreaks forum about using an external MP3 decoder IC with an 8 bit AVR to play back music.

  17. less than the price of an ipod touch. I wonder why.

    I mean, the fact that it can’t even play music might have something to do with it?

    It’s a nifty toy. But comparing it to a functional portable entertainment device is really not the right way to go.

  18. I have to agree with the comparison being misleading given the primary function of an iPod is playing music.

    Sorry, but it’s glaring.

  19. It’s strange that most in disagreement with this devices comparison to an iPod touch or even an iPhone consider “playing music” to be the best feature. It’s best features would have to be it’s touch capability and apps? Otherwise everyone would buy a cheap mp3 player to just “play music”. I would sacrifice mp3 capability for a cheap open source touch screen device if there were something in the mix like an openApp store!

  20. Hay guys haz anyone said this is liek nothing like an iPod!? Someone should totally point it out!!!1

    Seriously guys, give it a fucking rest already… It’s a very neato little platform that can be used for a bunch of different projects and at a half decent price to boot. I like it.

  21. for the same price, it could have an 72Mhz STM32 with64K ram and 256k flash and be able to decode mp3 by software. I don’t understand why people still use 8bits when 32bits are as cheap as they are today.

  22. At $70 a piece these would make a perfect custom dashboard or control interface for a number of different things.

    In theory this could replace an existing car gauge cluster with the ability to customize by touch.

    As a bonus you could program a subroutine to display OMGWTF!!! when the lateral G forces exceed a certain limit. ;-)

  23. Lol @ even speaking the name of the iPod while referring to this little turd. Have you ever opened up an iPod? There is no comparison between this low tech “touch” pad and an iPod. Just an FYI.

  24. Like sean posted. Hit up lastminuteauction.com there are many more capable devices that are based off known chip structures that cost a penny and 8 bux shipping if ya don’t mind waiting a week. My PSP clone was incredibly hackable and if you look under the Media Player section there are some neat little Android palm size touch devices for $30 that actually play music and such that appear and disappear from the list. Just my two cents. Sometimes working with something there is a lil faster than trying to force something from the ground up. I guess the touch capability still has folks mesmerized by being able to flick 80 files past the one you want back and forth 3 times lol. Best of luck to all :)

  25. A portable touch screen computer with the power to do… uh, pretty much nothing useful.

    It seems like the only use for this would be in another circuit, where you’d probably just buy the display and slot it into your own setup.

    i think someone mentioned this already but comparing it with an ipod touch is ridiculous. It has no resemblance other than being touch screen.

    For those who keep going on about the main feature of an ipod being to play music, I’m guessing you don’t own or have even thought about buying an ipod touch. I don’t know anyone that has bought one for the primary use of music. They have regular ipods for that, you know. People buy the ipod touch for the wifi internet, the apps, games and so on. With the music playing as a bonus.

  26. OH MAN. I want on of these BAD! I wanna fiddle with this make my own custom GUI, APPs, and have it do things that the iPod Touch can’t do!

    I’m getting a new think pad soon and I’d like to embed something like this in the right hand palm rest for small touch controls goodness.

  27. Edit: I’m getting a new ASUS laptop in a about a week, I’d like to embed this in my OLD ThinkPad t60. Sorry for the error.

    PS: I think it would make for a cool extra interface on a laptop if executed properly.

  28. OK, so you might expect a “iPod Touch” to play MP3s, it’s a shame that it doesn’t (someone should hack that in).

    But the reason it’s like a touch isn’t just because of the touchscreen, it’s because it does things like smooth kinetic scrolling in the image viewer app *despite* the very limited CPU capacity. And, obviously, the accelerometers can provide for other smartphone/tablet-esque functionality.

    It’s a small, hackable device that can be used in other projects. Maybe it could even be used in a tiny MP3 player, for that matter – add an audio player with I2C (or other) control and stick it in a tiny box? How about as an eBook reader? I’d want to try using it as a slick bicycle computer too.

  29. Granted, it’s not a complex jumble of HTML, Javascript, CSS, and Flash, but I can’t get over how smoothly and instantaneously it scrolls through formatted text & image content in the video demo. A mere 8-bit and 12MHz puts the 800+ MHz Android user experience to shame in that one regard.

    Jeez, Google… You’d think you might be able to keep up with the movement of a user’s finger while wringing out more than 4 or 5fps with that kind of power.

  30. Their design supports a omap 3530 in place of the avr just BGA. I guess it’d be hard to make profit with a $45 chip though.

  31. @Jake

    Very true but I figured it was a better use and post than the bazillion “This thing doesn’t play music!” posts. ;-)

    In all seriousness if you’ve got a suggestion for the a cheaper LCD touch screen+microcontroller I’d love to hear it.

    I suppose I could get one of the old smart phone/device touch screens that are floating around cheaply and the microcontroller that shall be unnamed but honestly after it’s all said and done you’ll still likely end up close to the same cost for a one-off.

  32. I dont understand, how is this device capable of playing video and capable of playing an mp3 or audio. And another question will this work as an SSH interface?

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