GET IN TOUCH

Handscape, Capacitive Touch Case for Controlling Smartphone or Tablet from the Back

BLE Consumer electronics Entertainment Firmware development Wearable

Although a tablet's touchscreen is good enough for most people, game players often find it inconvenient to use their thumbs to interact with the device.

A startup based in California was looking to build technology that would enable players to interact with a touchscreen from the back using every finger from both hands. They created Handscape – a case with touch-capacitive sensors that attach to a phone or tablet letting a user "see through" the device. With the case users can tap and swipe their tablet from behind – all necessary buttons are within comfortable reach.

Request

The founders of Handscape turned to Integra Sources after they had had a successful campaign on Kickstarter. While the first version of the device proved successful on the market, it worked only with some specific apps the device could support. 

To make it possible for Handscape to work with any kind of app, it needed to be recognized as a human interface device (HID) by the mobile phone or table to which it attaches. The founders of Handscape asked Integra Sources to add new features to the capacitive touch case: keyboard and gamepad recognized as human interface devices (HID).

Solution

We tested the existing hardware solution and revealed the bottleneck: the microcontroller didn't conform to Bluetooth security requirements and therefore wasn't supported by the device manufacturers. The chips needed to be modified from BlueNRG to BlueNRG-MS. After our client changed the hardware, we adapted the firmware for this new hardware version, implemented DFU (device firmware update) via USB, and finally implemented the HID keyboard and gamepad modes for the capacitive case.

Handscape PCB during debug process

Scope of work

  • Developed firmware for HID keyboard mode
  • Developed firmware for HID gamepad for the device
  • Implemented DFU (device firmware update) via USB to simplify the process of updating the firmware
  • Adapted the firmware for the new version of the hardware
  • Provided technology consulting on solving hardware issues

Technologies Used

  • BlueNRG and BlueNRG-MS with BLE 4.0 and BLE 4.1 support as MCU was used in this project.
  • FreeRTOS was used for firmware development.
  • The firmware was implemented using C/C++.
  • CrossWorks Studio IDE was used for firmware implementation.
  • To debug low-level BLE communication with iOS we used special BLE sniffer hardware and parse data in Wireshark.

Result

Handscape is a lightweight wireless device that understands individual touch and lets users see their fingers through their phone or tablet. It works with any application downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, allowing the users to switch between gamepad and keyboard modes. After implementing DFU (device firmware update) via USB we managed to decrease the average time of firmware updates from 3 minutes to 10 seconds.

Using the Handscape case as a keyboard

Supports

Most Google Play apps

Firmware update time

10 seconds

Supports

Most App Store apps