STMicro And USound Deliver Advanced Mems Silicon Micro-speakers


STMicroelectronics and USound, have delivered the first silicon micro-speakers
resulting from their technology collaboration announced last year. Engineering
samples are now with lead customers, and trade demonstrations will take place
during CES 2018, in Las Vegas.

These extremely small speakers, expected to be the thinnest
in the world and less than half the weight of conventional speakers, enable
wearable tech such as earphones, over-the-ear headphones, or
Augmented-Reality/Virtual-Reality (AR/VR) headgear to become even more compact
and comfortable. Their extremely low power consumption saves extra weight and
size by allowing smaller batteries, and unlike conventional speakers they
generate negligible heat.

As MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) devices, the
speakers are leveraging technology that has already revolutionized the
capabilities of smartphones and wearables. High-performing MEMS motion sensors,
pressure sensors, and microphones built on silicon chips are the critical
enablers for context sensing, navigation, tracking, and other features that
mobile users now rely on every day. With MEMS advancements now coming to
speakers, designers can further miniaturize the audio subsystem, reduce power
consumption, and create innovative features like 3D sound. MEMS-industry
analyst Yole Développement values the overall micro-speakers market at $8.7
currently, and expects MEMS manufacturers to capture share with silicon-based

“This successful project combines USound’s design flair and
ST’s extensive investment in MEMS expertise and processes, including our
advanced thin-film piezo technology PεTra (Piezo-electric Transducer)," said
Anton Hofmeister, Vice President and GM of MEMS Microactuators Division,
STMicroelectronics. “Together, we are winning the race to commercialize MEMS
micro-speakers by delivering a more highly miniaturized, efficient, and
better-performing solution leveraging the advantages of piezo-actuation."

“ST has provided the production expertise and manufacturing
muscle to realize our original concept as a pace-setting, advanced product ready
for consumer-market opportunities," said Ferruccio Bottoni, CEO of USound.
“These tiny speakers are now poised to change the design of audio and hearable
products, and open up new opportunities to develop creative audio

In addition to applications in mobiles, audio accessories,
and wearables, the new piezo-actuated silicon speakers support innovation in a
wide variety of hearable electronics, including home digital assistants, media
players, and IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices.

USound will demonstrate prototype AR/VR glasses containing
multiple MEMS speakers per side, to invited guests at ST’s private suite during
CES 2018. The demo will leverage the speakers’ ultra-thin form factor, low
weight, and high sound quality to show how miniaturized audio systems can
deliver outstanding experiences, and advanced features such as beam forming for
private audio, within the extremely tight size, weight, and power constraints
imposed by glasses and other wearables.

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