Section: Research Program

Axis 2: Robust Acoustic Scene Analysis

Compressive Acquisition and Processing of Acoustic Scenes

Acoustic imaging and scene analysis involve acquiring the information content from acoustic fields with a limited number of acoustic sensors. A full 3D+t field at CD quality and Nyquist spatial sampling represents roughly 106 microphones/m3. Dealing with such high-dimensional data requires to drastically reduce the data flow by positioning appropriate sensors, and selecting from all spatial locations the few spots where acoustic sources are active. The main goal is to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of the conditions under which compressive acoustic sensing is both feasible and robust to inaccurate modeling, noisy measures, and partially failing or uncalibrated sensing devices, in various acoustic sensing scenarii. This requires the development of adequate algorithmic tools, numerical simulations, and experimental data in simple settings where hardware prototypes can be implemented.

Robust Audio Source Separation

Audio signal separation consists in extracting the individual sound of different instruments or speakers that were mixed on a recording. It is now successfully addressed in the academic setting of linear instantaneous mixtures. Yet, real-life recordings, generally associated to reverberant environments, remain an unsolved difficult challenge, especially with many sources and few audio channels. Much of the difficulty comes from the combination of (i) complex source characteristics, (ii) sophisticated underlying mixing model and (iii) adverse recording environments. Moreover, as opposed to the “academic” blind source separation task, most applicative contexts and new interaction paradigms offer a variety of situations in which prior knowledge and adequate interfaces enable the design and the use of informed and/or manually assisted source separation methods.

One of the objectives of PANAMA is to instantiate and validate specific instances of audio source separation approaches and to target them to real-world industrial applications, such as 5.1 movie re-mastering, interactive music soloist control and outdoor speech enhancement. Extensions of the framework are needed to achieve real-time online processing, and advanced constraints or probabilistic priors for the sources at hand need to be designed, while paying attention to computational scalability issues.

In parallel to these efforts, expected progress in sparse modeling for inverse problems shall bring new approaches to source separation and modeling, as well as to source localization, which is often an important first step in a source separation workflow.

Robust Audio Source Localization

Audio source localization consists in estimating the position of one or several sound sources given the signals received by a microphone array. Knowing the geometry of an audio scene is often a pre-requisite to perform higher-level tasks such as speaker identification and tracking, speech enhancement and recognition or audio source separation. It can be decomposed into two sub-tasks : (i) compute spatial auditory features from raw audio input and (ii) map these features to the desired spatial information. Robustly addressing both these aspects with a limited number of microphones, in the presence of noise, reverberation, multiple and possibly moving sources remains a key challenge in audio signal processing. The first aspect will be tackled by both advanced statistical and acoustical modeling of spatial auditory features. The second one will be addressed by two complementary approaches. Physics-driven approaches cast sound source localization as an inverse problem given the known physics of sound propagation within the considered system. Data-driven approaches aim at learning the desired feature-to-source-position mapping using real-world or synthetic training datasets adapted to the problem at hand. Combining these approaches should allow a widening of the notion of source localization, considering problems such as the identification of the directivity or diffuseness of the source as well as some of the boundary conditions of the room. A general perspective is to investigate the relations between the physical structure of the source and the particular structures that can be discovered or enforced in the representations and models used for characterization, localization and separation.