Zero-power listening device for voice activated remote

An always-on mic that won't drain batteries.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer on

I lose remotes. Pretty much all the time. When I look for them, usually in some state of desperation, I sometimes call out like a pet owner looking for a missing dog. 

My remotes never call back.

That's because in order to do so a remote would have to be listening for voice commands, and a hot mic is a power-hungry feature that doesn't play well with the small batteries found in most battery-operated appliances.

Now, thanks to a new partnership between Remote Solution (they make, you guessed it, remotes) and Vesper, a company that's developed an innovative piezoelectric MEMS microphone that's always on but uses virtually no power, there is a fully voice-activated remote that doesn't require button-activation.

"Remote-less TVs that answer to a voice command are here," explains Matt Crowley, CEO of Vesper. "Our partnership with Remote Solution offers a whole new touch-free smart home system experience. The convenience of a voice-activated TV remote control makes for a fun and more seamless user experience and it's just the beginning of the smart home voice revolution."

Earlier this year I covered a voice-activated trashcan from simplehuman that utilizes Vesper's mics. The company is clearly pushing into the home, focusing on appliances that aren't typically plugged into an outlet and have therefore been out of reach of full voice activation to date.

In other words, this could be the start of a trend of always-listening devices in our home that don't answer to names like Siri and Alexa.

"Voice control is leading the way into the human interface revolution," says Frank Romeo, VP of Business Development at Remote Solution. "Vesper and Remote Solution are working together to bring leading edge voice-enabled technologies to our customers to enable and realize next-gen advancements in entertainment and home control."

Vesper's MEMS microphones use single-layer piezoelectric structures in place of the dual- or triple-membrane structures used in capacitive devices. "As single-layer devices, piezoelectric structures can move freely in response to sounds to create the highest fidelity signal possible," according to the company. "As a result, Vesper microphones provide very high SNR. This means that our microphones can capture sound clearly and at great distances while remaining immune to dust, particles or water."

Vesper has raised more than $46 million to date. The company is based in Boston.

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