Vesper Technologies, a microphone technology developer based in Boston, has received a new round of funding of US$23 million, led by American Family Ventures and strategic investors Baidu, Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Bose Ventures.
It’s the second round of investment from Alexa Fund to Vesper. Amazon established the US$200 million Alexa Fund with the goal of investing in various voice AI startups and to accelerate the development of voice intelligence ecosystem.
The new round of investment will be used to expand production of Vesper’s micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) microphones, for research and development, hiring new employees, and to open sales offices in China and South Korea.
MEMS microphones use acoustic sensors made on semiconductor production lines using silicon wafers. The technology allows small microphones to be extremely sensitive.
Catching specific words in a noisy environment can still be challenging. Manufacturers have adopted arrays of MEMS microphones to pick up sounds, but when systems become complicated, they are easy to break down.
Vesper makes MEMS microphones using piezoelectric technologies, which eliminates a back plate and lets flexible microphone plates bend. It enables Vesper’s microphones to respond to stress without degrading and to be waterproof, dustproof, particle-resistant and shockproof. Vesper’s technology lets microphones hear clearly without consuming much power.
Investors, including Amazon, hope that Vesper’s technology will resolve current problems of MEMS microphones and improve voice sensor applications.
“Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means devices need to be built with durable, high-quality components that stand up to the demands of many different environments, especially on-the-go scenarios that require better power efficiency,” said Paul Bernard, director of Alexa Fund at Amazon, in a statement.
Amazon has already incorporated Vesper’s microphone technology into Amazon hardware kits for Alexa devices.
Devices such as TV remotes, portable smart speakers, smart home cameras and wearable headsets with Vesper’s technology are expected to be available later this year for hands-free AI assistant access, Vesper CEO Matt Crowley told VentureBeat.