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Computational auditory scene analysis and robust automatic speech recognition
Narayanan, Arun

2014, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, Computer Science and Engineering.
Automatic speech recognition (ASR) has made great strides over the last decade producing acceptable performance in relatively `clean' conditions. As a result, it is becoming a mainstream technology. But for a system to be useful in everyday conditions, it has to deal with distorting factors like background noise, room reverberation, and recording channel characteristics. A popular approach to improve robustness is to perform speech separation before doing ASR. Most of the current systems treat speech separation and speech recognition as two independent, isolated tasks. But just as separation helps improve recognition, recognition can potentially influence separation. For example, in auditory perception, speech schemas have been known to help improve segregation. An underlying theme of this dissertation is the advocation of a closer integration of these two tasks. We address this in the context of computational auditory scene analysis (CASA), including supervised speech separation.

CASA is largely motivated by the principles that guide human auditory `scene analysis'. An important computational goal of CASA systems is to estimate the ideal binary mask (IBM). The IBM identifies speech dominated and noise dominated regions in a time-frequency representation of a noisy signal. Processing noisy signals using the IBM improves ASR performance by a large margin. We start by studying the role of binary mask patterns in ASR under various noises, signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) and vocabulary sizes. Our results show that the mere pattern of the IBM carries important phonetic information. Akin to human speech recognition, binary masking significantly improves ASR performance even when the SNR is as low as -60 dB. In fact, our study shows that there is broad agreement with human performance which is rather surprising. Given the important role that binary mask patterns play, we develop two novel systems that incorporate this information to improve ASR. The first system performs recognition by directly classifying binary masks corresponding to words and phonemes. The method is evaluated on an isolated digit recognition and a phone classification task. Despite dramatic reduction of speech information encoded in a binary mask compared to a typical ASR feature frontend, the proposed system performs surprisingly well. The second approach is a novel framework that performs speech separation and ASR in a unified fashion. Separation is performed via masking using an estimated IBM, and ASR is performed using the standard cepstral features. Most systems perform these tasks in a sequential fashion: separation followed by recognition. The proposed framework, which we call bidirectional speech decoder, unifies these two stages. It does this by using multiple IBM estimators each of which is designed specifically for a back-end acoustic phonetic unit (BPU) of the recognizer. The standard ASR decoder is modified to use these IBM estimators to obtain BPU-specific cepstra during likelihood calculation. On a medium-large vocabulary speech recognition task, the proposed framework obtains a relative improvement of 17% in word error rate over the noisy baseline. It also obtains significant improvements in the quality of the estimated IBM.

Supervised classification based speech separation has shown a lot of promise recently. We perform an in-depth evaluation of such techniques as a front-end for noise-robust ASR. Comparing performance of supervised binary and ratio mask estimators, we observe that ratio masking significantly outperforms binary masking when it comes to ASR. Consequently, we propose a separation front-end that consists of two stages. The first stage removes additive noise via ratio time-frequency masking. The second stage addresses channel mismatch and the distortions introduced by the first stage: A non-linear function is learned that maps the masked spectral features to their clean counterpart. Results show that the proposed front-end substantially improves ASR performance when the acoustic models are trained in clean conditions. We also propose a diagonal feature discriminant linear regression (dFDLR) adaptation that can be performed on a per-utterance basis for ASR systems employing deep neural networks (DNNs) and hidden Markov models. Results show that dFDLR consistently improves performance in all test conditions. We explore alternative ways to using the output of speech separation to improve ASR performance when using DNN based acoustic models. Apart from its use as a frontend, we propose using speech separation for providing smooth estimates of speech and noise which are then passed as additional features. Finally, we develop a unified framework that jointly improves separation and ASR under a supervised learning framework. Our systems obtain the state-of-the-art results in two widely used medium-large vocabulary noisy ASR corpora: Aurora-4 and CHiME-2.
DeLiang Wang (Advisor)
Mikhail Belkin (Committee Member)
Eric Fosler-Lussier (Committee Member)
275 p.

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Narayanan, A. (2014). Computational auditory scene analysis and robust automatic speech recognition. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

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Narayanan, Arun. "Computational auditory scene analysis and robust automatic speech recognition." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2014. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 18 Dec 2017.

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Narayanan, Arun "Computational auditory scene analysis and robust automatic speech recognition." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2014.


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