STMicroelectronics together with the audio company USound  has developed the first MEMs micro-loudspeaker based on silicon. Samples are currently being delivered to the first customers and the speakers are being showcased at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

In the audio world the electromechanical capabilities of MEMS have only been used to build tiny microphones. Speakers, on the other hand, still rely on traditional dynamic design principles. That could all change for mobile devices if manufacturers start building-in MEMS loudspeakers to their equipment.
According to the manufacturer, these tiny speakers are the thinnest in the world and have less than half the weight of a conventional speaker. Conceivable applications include portable devices such as headphones, over-the-ear earphones, augmented reality headsets or virtual reality systems, making their design more compact and comfortable. Thanks to its high efficiency, it also reduces energy consumption thereby saving weight by allowing the use of smaller batteries. Higher efficiency results in less heat generated.

As MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems)-based design, these speakers employ technology already widely used in smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, etc. These include sensors to detect motion, air pressure and sound waves. MEMS speakers further miniaturize the audio subsystem, reducing power consumption. Innovative features such as 3D sound production is also a conceivable application. In addition to its use in smartphones, audio accessories and wearables, the new piezo-based silicon speakers can also be used in a wide range of portable electronic devices, including Home Digital Assistants, Media Players and IoT devices.

At the ST suite at CES 2018 USound are showcasing prototype AR / VR goggles with multiple MEMS speakers fitted to the right and left side.