Wireless sensor networks have been gaining interest as a platform that changes how we interact with the physical world. Applications in medicine, military, inventory management, structural and environmental monitoring, and the like can benefit from low-power wireless nodes that communicate data collected via a variety of sensors. Current deployments of wireless sensor networks (WSN) rely on off-the-shelf commodity-based microcontrollers, but the unoptimized energy consumption of these systems can limit the effective lifetimes. Ideally, researchers would like to deeply embed wireless sensor network nodes in the physical world, relying on energy scavenged from the ambient environment. This paper provides a survey of ultra low power processors specifically designed for WSN applications that have begun to emerge from research labs, which require detailed understanding of tradeoffs between application space, architecture, and circuit techniques to implement these low-power systems.