Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Speech in its environment

Participants : Denis Jouvet, Antoine Deleforge, Dominique Fohr, Emmanuel Vincent, Md Sahidullah, Irène Illina, Odile Mella, Romain Serizel, Tulika Bose, Guillaume Carbajal, Diego Di Carlo, Sandipana Dowerah, Ashwin Geet Dsa, Adrien Dufraux, Raphaël Duroselle, Mathieu Fontaine, Nicolas Furnon, Mohamed Amine Menacer, Mauricio Michel Olvera Zambrano, Lauréline Perotin, Sunit Sivasankaran, Nicolas Turpault, Nicolas Zampieri, Ismaël Bada, Yassine Boudi, Mathieu Hu, Stephane Level.

Acoustic environment analysis

We are constantly surrounded by ambient sounds and rely heavily on them to obtain important information about our environment. Deep neural networks are useful to learn relevant representations of these sounds. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of unsupervised representation learning using various flavors of the so-called triplet loss (a triplet is composed of the current sample, a so-called positive sample from the same class, and a negative sample from a different class), and compared it to supervised learning. To address real situations involving both a small labeled dataset and a large unlabeled one, we combined unsupervised and supervised triplet loss based learning into a semi-supervised representation learning approach and compared it with supervised and unsupervised representation learning depending on the ratio between the amount of labeled and unlabeled data [49].

Pursuing our involvement in the community on ambient sound recognition, we co-organized a task on large-scale sound event detection as part of the Detection and Classification of Acoustic Scenes and Events (DCASE) 2019 Challenge [48]. It focused on the problem of learning from audio segments that are either weakly labeled or not labeled, targeting domestic applications. We also published a summary of the outcomes of the DCASE 2017 Challenge, in which we had organized the first version of that task [7] and a detailed analysis of the submissions to that task in 2018 [16] and 2019 [61].

Speech enhancement and noise robustness

Sound source localization and counting

In multichannel scenarios, source localization, counting and separation are tightly related tasks. Concerning deep learning based speaker localization, we introduced the real and imaginary parts of the acoustic intensity vector in each time-frequency bin as suitable input features. We analyzed the inner working of the neural network using layerwise relevance propagation [9]. We also defined alternative regression-based approaches for localization and compared them to the usual classification-based approach on a discrete grid [43]. Lauréline Perotin successfully defended her PhD on this topic [2]. In [24], we proposed the first deep-learning based method for blindly estimating early acoustic echoes. We showed how estimates of these echoes enable 2D sound source localization with only two microphones near a reflective surface, a task normally impossible with traditional methods. Finally, we published our former work on motion planning for robot audition [8].

We organized the IEEE Signal Processing Cup 2019, an international competition aimed at teams of undergraduate students [5]. The tasks we proposed were on sound source localization using an array embedded in a flying drone for search and rescue application. Submissions to the first phase of the competition were opened from November 2018 to March 2019, and the final took place on May the 13th at the international conference ICASSP in Brighton. 20 teams of undergraduate students from 18 universities in 11 countries participated, for a total of 132 participants. The drone-embedded sound source localization dataset we recorded for the challenge was made publically available after the competition and has received over 1,000 file downloads as of December 2019.

Speech enhancement

We investigated the effect of speaker localization accuracy on deep learning based speech enhancement quality. To do so, we generated a multichannel, multispeaker, reverberated, noisy dataset inspired from the well studied WSJ0-2mix and evaluated enhancement performance in terms of the word error rate. We showed that the signal-to-interference ratio between the speakers has a higher impact on the ASR performance than the angular distance [62]. In addition, we proposed a deflation method which estimates the sources iteratively. At each iteration, we estimate the location of the speaker, derive the corresponding time-frequency mask and remove the estimated source from the mixture before estimating the next one [63].

In parallel, we introduced a method for joint reduction of acoustic echo, reverberation and noise. This method models the target and residual signals after linear echo cancellation and dereverberation using a multichannel Gaussian modeling framework and jointly represents their spectra by means of a neural network. We developed an iterative block-coordinate ascent algorithm to update all the filters. The proposed approach outperforms in terms of overall distortion a cascade of the individual approaches and a joint reduction approach which does not rely on a spectral model of the target and residual signals [53], [57].

In the context of ad-hoc acoustic antennas, we proposed to extend the distributed adaptive node-specific signal estimation approach to a neural networks framework. At each node, a local filtering is performed to send one signal to the other nodes where a mask is estimated by a neural network in order to compute a global multi-channel Wiener filter. In an array of two nodes, we showed that this additional signal can be efficiently taken into account to predict the masks and leads to better speech enhancement performances than when the mask estimation relies only on the local signals [58].

We have been pursuing our work on non-Gaussian heavy-tail models for signal processing, and notably investigated whether such models could be of use to devise new cost functions for the training of deep generative models for source separation [34]. In the case of speech enhancement, it turned out that the related log-likelihood functions could advantageously replace the more constraining squared-error and lead to significant performance gains.

We have also been pursuing our theoretical work on multichannel alpha-stable models, devising two new multichannel filtering methods that are adequate for processing multivariate heavy-tailed vectors. The related work is presented in Mathieu Fontaine's PhD manuscript [1].

Robust speech recognition

Achieving robust speech recognition in reverberant, noisy, multi-source conditions requires not only speech enhancement and separation but also robust acoustic modeling. In order to motivate further work by the community, we created the series of CHiME Speech Separation and Recognition Challenges in 2011. We are now organizing the 6th edition of the Challenge, and released the French dataset for ambient assisted living applications previously collected as part of the FUI VOICEHOME project [4].

Speaker recognition

Automatic speaker recognition systems give reasonably good recognition accuracy when adequate amount of speech data from clean conditions are used for enrollment and test. However, performance degrades substantially in real-world noisy conditions as well as due to the lack of adequate speech data. Apart from these two practical limitations, speaker recognition performance also degrades in presence of spoofing attacks [51] where playback voice or synthetic speech generated with voice conversion or speech synthesis methods are used by attackers to access a system protected with voice biometrics.

We have explored a new speech quality measure for quality-based fusion of speaker recognition systems. The quality metric is formulated with the zero-order statistics estimated during i-vector extraction. The proposed quality metric is shown to capture the speech duration information, and it has outperformed absolute-duration based quality measures when combining multiple speaker recognition systems. Noticeable improvement over existing methods have been observed specifically for the short-duration conditions [10].

We have also participated in speaker recognition evaluation campaigns NIST SREs and VoxSRC. For the NIST SREs [54], the key problem was to recognize speakers from low-quality telephone conversations. In addition, the language mismatch between system development and data under test made the problem more challenging. In VoxSRC, on the other hand, the main problem was to recognize speakers speaking short sentences of about 10 sec where the speech files are extracted from Youtube video clips. We have explored acoustic feature extraction, domain adaptation, parameter optimization and system fusion for these challenges. For VoxSRC, our system has shown substantial improvement over baseline results.

We also introduced a statistical uncertainty-aware method for robust i-vector based speaker verification in noisy conditions, that is the first one to improve over simple chaining of speech enhancement and speaker verification on the challenging NIST-SRE corpus mixed with real domestic noise and reverberation [44].

Robust speaker recognition is an essential component of speaker diarization systems. We have participated in the second DIHARD challenge where the key problem was the diarization of speech signals collected from diverse real-world conditions. We have explored speech activity detection, domain grouping, acoustic features, and speech enhancement for improved speaker recognition. Our proposed system has shown considerable improvement over the Kaldi-based baseline system provided by the challenge organizer [60].

We have co-organized the ASVspoof 2019 challenge, as an effort to develop next-generation countermeasures for automatic detection of spoofed/fake audio [46]. This involved creating the audio dataset, designing experiments, evaluating and analyzing the results. 154 teams or individuals participated in the challenge. The database is available for research and further exploration from Edinburgh DataShare, and has been downloaded/viewed more than a thousand times so far.

We have also analyzed whether target speaker selection can help in attacking speaker recognition systems with voice impersonation [35]. Our study reveals that impersonators were not successful in attacking the systems, however, the speaker similarity scores transfer well from the attacker’s system to the attacked system [12]. Though there were modest changes in F0 and formants, we found that the impersonators were able to considerably change their speaking rates when mimicking targets.

Language identification

State-of-the-art spoken language identification systems are constituted of three modules: a frame level feature extractor, a segment level embedding extractor and a classifier. The performance of these systems degrades when facing mismatch between training and testing data. Although most domain adaptation methods focus on adaptation of the classifier, we have developed an unsupervised domain adaptation of the embedding extractor. The proposed approach consists in a modification of the loss of the segment level embedding extractor by adding a regularisation term. Experiments were conducted with respect to transmission channel mismatch between telephone and radio channels using the RATS corpus. The proposed method is superior to adaptation of the classifier and obtain the same performance as published language identification results but without using labelled data from the target domain.

Linguistic and semantic processing

Transcription, translation, summarization and comparison of videos

Within the AMIS project, we studied different subjects related to the processing of videos. The first one concerns the machine translation of Arabic-English code-switched documents [41]. Code-switching is defined as the use of more than one language by a speaker within an utterance. The second one deals with the summarization of videos into a target language [11]. This exploits research carried on in several areas including video summarization, speech recognition, machine translation, audio summarization and speech segmentation. One of the big challenges of this work was to conceive a way to evaluate objectively a system composed of several components given that each of them has its limits and that errors propagate through the components. A third aspect was a method for extracting text-based summarization of Arabic videos [40]. The automatic speech recognition system developed to transcribe the videos has been adapted to the Algerian dialect, and additional modules were developed for segmenting the flow of recognized word into sentences, and for summarization. Finally the last aspect concerns the comparison of the opinions of two videos in two different languages [20]. Evaluations have been carried on comparable videos extracted from a corpus of 1503 Arabic and 1874 English videos.

Detection of hate speech in social media

The spectacular expansion of the Internet led to the development of a new research problem in natural language processing, the automatic detection of hate speech, since many countries prohibit hate speech in public media. In the context of the M-PHASIS project, we proposed a new approach for the classification of tweets, aiming to predict whether a tweet is abusive, hate or neither. We compare different unsupervised word representations and DNN classifiers, and study the robustness of the proposed approaches to adversarial attacks when adding one (healthy or toxic) word. We are evaluating the proposed methodology on the English Wikipedia Detox corpus and on a Twitter corpus.

Introduction of semantic information in an automatic speech recognition system

In current state-of-the-art automatic speech recognition systems, N-gram based models are used to take into account language information. They have a local view and are mainly based on syntax. The introduction of semantic information and longer term information in a recognition system should make it possible to remove some ambiguities and reduce the error rate of the system. Within the MMT project, we are proposing and evaluating methods for integrating semantic information into our speech recognition system through the use of various word embeddings.

Music language modeling

Similarly to speech, language models play a key role in music modeling. We represented the hierarchical structure of a temporal scenario (for instance, a chord progression) via a phrase structure grammar and proposed a method to automatically induce this grammar from a corpus and to exploit it in the context of machine improvisation [6].