Intending to improve the smallest audio component found in smartphones, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a new Boston-based sensor company called Vesper has designed a microphone that will enhance consumers’ acoustic experience with voice capture and sound recording. Though such microphones are virtually invisible to consumers, the market for the highest-performance devices is huge: the research firm IHS predicts that it will reach $718 million by 2017i.
Vesper’s microphone technology offers the highest signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in ultra-compact form factors for consumer microphones: 70 db SNR, which is the key determining factor in acoustic performance.
Boosting Acoustic Performance
Consumers demand a better acoustic experience with their mobile devices. However, current MEMS microphone technology has been lacking, limiting the quality of always-on voice command, which is prone to high rates of error, and high-fidelity sound recording, particularly in noisy environments.
“Acoustics have not kept pace with other innovations in consumer electronics,” said Matt Crowley, CEO, Vesper. “They’ve been eclipsed by advances in display, processing, connectivity and camera. Our technology will improve always-on voice command, even at a distance. That’s particularly useful for applications such as Google Now. It’s also going to enhance the quality of sound recording, even in loud environments where ambient noise is a problem.”
With today’s smartphones embedding up to five microphones in arrays, designers are looking for better microphone solutions. Arrays of low-power, very high SNR microphones, such as Vesper’s, will address the issues with existing microphones in several ways:
- Higher SNR microphones enable far field audio, dramatically improving sound capture even at longer distances
- They provide ambient noise cancellation for recording, or for speaking on the phone, enhancing clarity and intelligibility
- “Audio Zoom” capability focuses on a single sound source when recording, enabling more accurate sound-selection
“At the top performance level, very high SNR microphones feature a signal-to-noise ratio level of greater than, or equal to, 64 dB. These are the microphones projected to have the greatest growth in the coming years, with an estimated five-year revenue CAGR of 40 percent from 2012 to 2017,” said Marwan Boustany, senior analyst, MEMS & Sensors, IHS. “A robust MEMS microphone achieving 70 dB SNR at a small form factor would be well placed to provide a rich consumer experience with voice calls, voice commands and sound recording. This bodes well for companies that are targeting this space with very high SNR microphones.”