Biomimetic Resonant Acoustic Sensor Detecting Far-Distant Voices Accurately to Hit the Market

DAEJEON, South Korea, June 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A KAIST research team has developed a bioinspired flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor with…

DAEJEON, South Korea, June 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A KAIST research team has developed a bioinspired flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor with multi-resonant ultrathin piezoelectric membrane mimicking the basilar membrane of the human cochlea. The flexible acoustic sensor has been miniaturized for embedding into smartphones and the first commercial prototype is ready for accurate and far-distant voice detection.

In 2018, Professor Keon Jae Lee presented the first concept of a flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor, inspired by the fact that humans can accurately detect far-distant voices using a multi-resonant trapezoidal membrane with 20,000 hair cells. However, previous acoustic sensors could not be integrated into commercial products like smartphones and AI speakers due to their large device size.

In this work, the research team fabricated a mobile-sized acoustic sensor by adopting ultrathin piezoelectric membranes with high sensitivity. Simulation studies proved that the ultrathin polymer underneath inorganic piezoelectric thin film can broaden the resonant bandwidth to cover the entire voice frequency range using seven channels. Based on this theory, the research team successfully demonstrated the miniaturized acoustic sensor mounted in commercial smartphones and AI speakers for machine learning-based biometric authentication and voice processing.

The resonant mobile acoustic sensor has superior sensitivity and multi-channel signals compared to conventional condenser microphones with a single channel, and it has shown highly accurate and far-distant speaker identification with a small amount of voice training data. The error rate of speaker identification was significantly reduced by 56% (with 150 training datasets) and 75% (with 2,800 training datasets) compared to that of a MEMS condenser device.

Professor Lee said, «Google has been targeting the ‘Wolverine Project’ on far-distant voice separation from multi-users for next-generation AI user interfaces. I expect that our multi-channel resonant acoustic sensor with abundant voice information is the best fit for this application.»

Professor Lee also established a startup company Fronics Inc., in Korea and U.S. to commercialize this flexible acoustic sensor. This research was published in Science Advances in February 2021.


KAIST( is the first and top science and technology university in Korea. KAIST was established in 1971 by the Korean government to educate scientists and engineers committed to the industrialization and economic growth of Korea.

Since then, KAIST and its 64,739 graduates have been the gateway to advanced science and technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. KAIST has emerged as one of the most innovative universities with more than 10,000 students enrolled in five colleges and seven schools including 1,039 international students from 90 countries.

On the precipice of its semi-centennial anniversary in 2021, KAIST continues to strive to make the world better through the pursuit in education, research, entrepreneurship, and globalization.

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SOURCE KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)