Last year, Vesper announced a piezoelectric MEMS microphone that could convert sound pressure into an electric charge. Now, the company announced a next-generation piezoelectric MEMS microphone, called the VM1010, that the company said draws almost zero power even though it's always-on, thus enabling multiple new capabilities.
Vesper said that even when the batteries in smartphones or smart speakers are fully powered off, they naturally dissipate 40-80uA, which is much more current than an always-on Vesper VM1010 microphone needs (only 3uA at 1.8V in sleep mode). That means the impact on power consumption, even when a device is fully powered off, is negligible.
Vesper added that even when going into sleep-mode, the VM1010 preserves its high signal to noise ratio (SNR), which is essential to improving acoustic range.
“Once embedded in a voice-powered TV remote control or smart speaker, for example, VM1010 could allow you to turn on your device from across the room without having to push a button and without diminishing battery life,” said Matt Crowley, Vesper’s CEO.
As Vesper’s previous MEMS piezoelectric microphone, the VM1010 inherits the same resistance to humidity, water, oils and dust particles, ostensibly ensuring a prolonged life, no matter the environment, as well as better protection against various accidents.
“For years the electronics industry has envisioned the development of quiescent sensors that consume no power until the appropriate stimulus occurs, but no company has demonstrated this previously in a real commercial device,” said Peter Cooney, principal analyst and director, SAR Insight & Consulting. “Vesper’s latest piezoelectric MEMS microphone has the potential to advance quiescent sensing into the commercial realm, ushering in a new era of ubiquitous always on sensors that can run indefinitely on small batteries," he added.
The VM1010 should enable more voice recognition and authentication applications, now that power draw for always-listening microphones isn’t an issue anymore.
We’ve already seen multiple products incorporating always-on listening capabilities combined with virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google’s voice search. However, although those products may have made a slight compromise in power consumption in order bring the capabilities into the mainstream, such compromises may not be necessary anymore with microphones such as the VM1010.
The Vesper VM1010 could be used in new types of products such as smart door knobs, as well. It also could be used as an acoustic sensor that could activate a house or office alarm if a window is broken or there’s a gunshot nearby.
Engineering samples for the Vesper VM1010 microphone are already available to customers that want to develop technologically advanced systems, and production samples will be available in Q4 2016.
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu.