USound is an innovative and fast-growing audio company from Austria, and their tiny silicon micro-speakers are currently one of the most promising technologies for mobile applications. USound holds more than 50 MEMS audio patents. During Mobile World Congress 2018, in Barcelona, STMicroelectronics was hosting an immersive 3D-sound solution, using over-the-ear headphones that contained 14 (seven per side) of the miniature, low-profile drivers to create lifelike 3D-audio effects. These allow wearers to localize events occurring to the right, left, behind, or elsewhere, in a sonic virtual or augmented reality, giving a rich and immersive user experience that could enhance visual AR and VR worlds. With their large bandwidth and high-quality bass, the speakers are capable of highly realistic sound reproduction.
“The demonstration at MWC 2018 shows how the tiny dimensions and good sound quality of these advanced speakers enable lifelike 3D sound,” says Anton Hofmeister, Vice President and GM of MEMS Microactuators Division, STMicroelectronics. “Thanks to our PεTra (Piezo-electric Transducer) Technology we are helping USound to target high volume markets and enable revolutionary new applications.”
Ferruccio Bottoni, CEO of USound, added, “We already have a development kit available for these 3D headphones featuring our advanced silicon micro-speakers, to help customers create revolutionary audio products for gaming, general entertainment, leisure, and professional uses such as training or simulation.”
USound’s micro-speakers feature industry-unique, high-precision piezo-electric actuators, which simultaneously enable small size, low power consumption, low heat dissipation, and very high sound quality, rivalling or surpassing conventional electro-dynamic balanced-armature speakers. Audio equipment producers can take advantage of these attributes to create hardware-based wearable 3D-audio products that accurately recreate a real acoustic environment. The demonstration of USound’s MEMS earphones at Mobile World Congress was also impressive, with a single driver showing detail, extended response and dynamics of in-ear designs using multiple drivers.
ST’s Piezo-electric Transducer technology (PεTra) and MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) manufacturing processes provided the keys to realizing the manufacturing of such tiny speakers as market-ready products within an aggressive project timeline, leveraging proven techniques similar to conventional MEMS and CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) chip fabrication. The actuators are extremely small, reliable, and can be manufactured economically in high volumes.
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