Analog Product Insight

MEMS device aims to replace microphone arrays

A bio-inspired directional MEMS microphone claims to have isolated a speaker’s voice while eliminating sonic clutter to provide a pristine audio output for laptops, webcams, smart speakers, TVs, headsets, AR/VR, medical devices, wearables, vehicles, and more. It aims to replace large omnidirectional microphone arrays with a directional MEMS microphone that leverages a new transducer design and taps into proprietary software that optimizes the audio experience.

Soundskrit, which first previewed the technology at CES 2018, has unveiled the SKR0400 directional MEMS microphone. The Montreal, Canada-based company claims its new microphone inherently eliminates unwanted noise at the hardware level with a highly directional pickup pattern. That reduces background noise and reverberation while isolating a user’s voice with high-fidelity.

Figure 1 The directional MEMS microphone eliminates unwanted noise at the hardware level. Source: Soundskrit

The commonly used arrays of multiple omnidirectional microphones usually struggle to isolate the desired voice from unwanted background noise. Here, traditional audio processing software, which attempts to separate audio from noise, usually also ends up removing key pieces of speech as it tries to filter out the unwanted noise, potentially leaving an unnatural and distorted speech signal. Moreover, it can increase real estate, power consumption, and design complexity.

Small auditory system

According to Stephane Leahy, VP of hardware and co-founder of Soundskrit, the company took inspiration from the smallest auditory systems in nature, where insects, unlike humans, respond to airflow rather than pressure. Next, Soundskrit designed a microphone transducer from the ground up. The transducer, by moving in sync with the surrounding air motion (sound), is able to accurately sense an incoming sound wave and convert it into a high-quality electronic signal.

On top of that, Soundskrit has developed an in-house AI software suite to eliminate background noise. It tracks multiple speakers around a room, and/or detects the distance of a sound from the microphones, so audio devices can isolate voice and eliminate unwanted background noise.

Figure 2 The new MEMS device, when compared with omnidirectional microphone arrays, claims to cut power in half. Source: Soundskrit

That, according to Soundskrit, leads to a lighter DSP chipset, shorter signal path, better performance, and an easier product design. And two SKR0400 devices provide the same design value as four omnidirectional microphone arrays.

The proliferation of video meetings and remote work as well as the adoption of smart home applications and smart vehicles have significantly raised the bar for consumer expectations of audio quality. The advent of augmented and virtual reality headsets and the emergence of true wireless sound (TWS) headsets further reinforce the need for pristine audio. Soundskrit says its omnidirectional microphones are ready to deliver that in today’s and tomorrow’s consumer devices.

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1 comment on “MEMS device aims to replace microphone arrays

  1. Amanda gibbson
    September 14, 2022

    It’s great that you shared this! Thank you! It is really helpful to have this information.

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