These 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 more compact and comfortable. Their 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 billion currently, and expects MEMS manufacturers to capture share with silicon-based devices.
“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, VP 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.”