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Date: 17-09-14

Devices inside a bionic ear for wearable sound experience

Soundchip SA designed bionic ear is developed using latest Motion and Audio MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical System) components from STMicroelectronics, an HD-PA-compliant Audio Engine for zero-latency sound processing, and an ultra-low-power STM32 MCU, a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M-core microcontroller chip.

The bionic hearing module’s packaging employs the latest in ECP (Embedded Component Packaging) and 2.5D PCB (Printed Circuit Board) technology from AT&S, which is capable of integrating acoustic, electroacoustic, passive and active electronic components. All this is designed to suit the comfort and size constraints of in-ear operation, and compatible with most existing in-ear-type personal audio devices.

MP3 player, smartphone embedded with the bionic hearing modules allows its users to electronically “open” and “close” their ears to ambient sound conditions, or even to augment ambient sound with programmed audio from a connected smart device. This capability can fully protect wearers from noise in situations where the ambient sound is too loud, or to open the ear for natural conversation with others, without having to remove the audio device, suffer from the discomfort of occlusion, or worse, the pain of loud noise.

The multi-mode audio capabilities of the bionic hearing module are enabled through the use of HD-PA technology developed by Soundchip. Their implementation in a compact form factor is made possible through the use of patented Soundstrate technology, which enables the efficient combination of electronic, acoustic, and transmission means within a single, compact mechanical structure.

“For the past four years, Soundchip has been leading the parade for smart wearable sound to market-leading companies in the consumer, mobile and aviation markets. We have been thrilled by their response and now see that consumers are ready to experience a new wave of smart, software-enabled wearable sound devices,” said Mark Donaldson, CEO of Soundchip.

“Enabling bionic hearing demands the interconnection of robust and reliable high-performance silicon components within a complex structure—that must be comfortable to wear. By combining our leading MEMS and micro-processing devices with complementary solutions from Soundchip and AT&S, we have the right combination of technology and know-how to deliver this ground-breaking solution,” said Andrea Onetti, Volume MEMS & Analog Division General Manager, STMicroelectronics.

“Very-small form-factor devices—especially those that will be worn in ear--demand highly integrated designs and packaging technologies at the leading edge. AT&S, as the foremost supplier of ECP® and 2.5D® packaging solutions, is strongly positioned to enable the bionic ear, and we are thrilled to be joining Soundchip and STMicroelectronics in bringing this exciting technology to market,” said Michael Tschandl, VP Sales Advanced Packaging, AT&S.

The bionic hearing module is expected to be available for customer sampling by the second quarter of 2015.

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