April 8, 2013 in Advanced Manufacturing, ATDC News

Startup Chronicles: NextInput

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NextInput At a Glance

The idea began in Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory in 2007. While using pressure sensors for various applications on unmanned aerial vehicles, Ian Campbell began brainstorming how to combine force and pressure sensors for commercially available human input devices – even developing an early prototype of the “next generation” touch technology.

After joining forces with Ryan Diestelhorst and Don Metzger, the idea became a reality. Founded in 2011, NextInput develops force-sensitive touch technology for smartphones, tablets, laptops, automotive touch zones and other electronic devices. NextPinput’s primary technology – called ForceTouch® – offers a complete touch solution to electronics manufacturers, including proprietary sensors, firmware and drivers for popular operating systems like Android.

“ForceTouch competes with other touch technology like older resistive and newer capacitive touch technology,” said Campbell, who serves as NextInput’s COO. “The advantages are that ForceTouch is less expensive, uses less power, can sense fine-tipped styluses and other non-conductive objects like a gloved hand or fingernail and works in rugged environments and underwater. Perhaps most importantly, ForceTouch can sense three dimensions of touch – the usual X/Y location of a touch point, but also force.”

In layman’s terms, that third dimension can enable users to more easily navigate through documents or maps, create, cut and paste content and adjust device parameters like volume or display brightness. It can also eliminate accidental touches that are now so common in devices like the iPad.

The ATDC Select startup’s technology is attracting quite a bit of interest these days. NextInput has already raised $1.2 million in seed capital and received nearly $1 million in research contracts from clients and SBIR grants, and they are commercializing ForceTouch in industries ranging from smartphone/tablet to automotive and general consumer electronics.

“We are nearly cash flow positive just from our research and development contracts, however we are raising a VC/strategic round now to help scale out the company and get our technology onto a commercialization path,”said Campbell. “Our long-term plans are to capture a significant share of the $16 billion touch interface technology market. We will accomplish this with both the current iteration of ForceTouch technology and by continuing our R&D efforts into new, novel approaches to sensing touch.”

Ian Campbell

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