Power consumption is a major constraining factor for the use of microphones. The power draw required to continually monitor environmental conditions for microphone applications poses real problems. Thanks to the U-M startup Vesper, however, all of that may be changing. The Boston-based company has developed a VM1010 piezoelectric MEMS microphone which generates power from the very sound waves it receives, meaning that, in the future, your home assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa-enabled products, might not have to remain tethered to electric outlets.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that that Amazon’s Alexa Fund was one of several investors to contribute toward Vesper’s $15 million Series A round, which just closed. Other investors in the financing round, which was led by Accomplice, include Hyperplane, AAC from China, Mirae Nanotech from Korea, and the University of Michigan MINTS fund.
Steve Rabuchin, vice president of Amazon Alexa, said in a statement, “We are always interested in supporting novel technologies that can enable new and delightful Alexa experiences for our customers. We see the potential for Vesper’s technology to unlock compelling new use cases for Alexa, such as portable electronics where dirt and moisture resistance is an important attribute for microphones, and we are excited to be supporting the company with our investment.”
When asked about the robust nature of the Vesper piezoelectric mic at the annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards in San Jose, the company’s CTO Bobby Littrell (U-M PhD in Mechanical Engineering), said, “MEMS microphones have the potential to make voice a pervasive user interface for the smart speakers, smartphones, wearables/hearables and Internet of Things devices that we use regularly. In order to realize this potential, however, we had to make more reliable and resilient MEMS microphones that are better-suited to microphone arrays. We employed a fundamentally new architecture and material to achieve this: piezoelectric MEMS. Our first product, VM1000, was the result. It is waterproof, dustproof, particle-resistant, highly stable and produces well-matched microphone arrays.”
In addition to the ACE award winning VM1000, Vesper plans to introduce several new microphones in 2017 including the VM1010 wake-on-sound microphone, a differential output microphone targeting smartphones and a digital microphone. Look for Vesper powered battery powered smart home products in Q3 2017.
SEE THE VESPER MICROPHONE IN ACTION:
[Subscribe to the Vesper YouTube channel here.]