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Concept: Speech synthesis


The technology for evaluating patient-provider interactions in psychotherapy-observational coding-has not changed in 70 years. It is labor-intensive, error prone, and expensive, limiting its use in evaluating psychotherapy in the real world. Engineering solutions from speech and language processing provide new methods for the automatic evaluation of provider ratings from session recordings. The primary data are 200 Motivational Interviewing (MI) sessions from a study on MI training methods with observer ratings of counselor empathy. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) was used to transcribe sessions, and the resulting words were used in a text-based predictive model of empathy. Two supporting datasets trained the speech processing tasks including ASR (1200 transcripts from heterogeneous psychotherapy sessions and 153 transcripts and session recordings from 5 MI clinical trials). The accuracy of computationally-derived empathy ratings were evaluated against human ratings for each provider. Computationally-derived empathy scores and classifications (high vs. low) were highly accurate against human-based codes and classifications, with a correlation of 0.65 and F-score (a weighted average of sensitivity and specificity) of 0.86, respectively. Empathy prediction using human transcription as input (as opposed to ASR) resulted in a slight increase in prediction accuracies, suggesting that the fully automatic system with ASR is relatively robust. Using speech and language processing methods, it is possible to generate accurate predictions of provider performance in psychotherapy from audio recordings alone. This technology can support large-scale evaluation of psychotherapy for dissemination and process studies.

Concepts: Transcription, Positive predictive value, Type I and type II errors, Sensitivity and specificity, Prediction, Speech recognition, Speech processing, Speech synthesis


Restoring natural speech in paralyzed and aphasic people could be achieved using a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) controlling a speech synthesizer in real-time. To reach this goal, a prerequisite is to develop a speech synthesizer producing intelligible speech in real-time with a reasonable number of control parameters. We present here an articulatory-based speech synthesizer that can be controlled in real-time for future BCI applications. This synthesizer converts movements of the main speech articulators (tongue, jaw, velum, and lips) into intelligible speech. The articulatory-to-acoustic mapping is performed using a deep neural network (DNN) trained on electromagnetic articulography (EMA) data recorded on a reference speaker synchronously with the produced speech signal. This DNN is then used in both offline and online modes to map the position of sensors glued on different speech articulators into acoustic parameters that are further converted into an audio signal using a vocoder. In offline mode, highly intelligible speech could be obtained as assessed by perceptual evaluation performed by 12 listeners. Then, to anticipate future BCI applications, we further assessed the real-time control of the synthesizer by both the reference speaker and new speakers, in a closed-loop paradigm using EMA data recorded in real time. A short calibration period was used to compensate for differences in sensor positions and articulatory differences between new speakers and the reference speaker. We found that real-time synthesis of vowels and consonants was possible with good intelligibility. In conclusion, these results open to future speech BCI applications using such articulatory-based speech synthesizer.

Concepts: Language, Control theory, Control, Vowel, Religious conversion, Vocoder, Speech synthesis


We propose a new recognition task in the area of computational paralinguistics: automatic recognition of eating conditions in speech, i. e., whether people are eating while speaking, and what they are eating. To this end, we introduce the audio-visual iHEARu-EAT database featuring 1.6 k utterances of 30 subjects (mean age: 26.1 years, standard deviation: 2.66 years, gender balanced, German speakers), six types of food (Apple, Nectarine, Banana, Haribo Smurfs, Biscuit, and Crisps), and read as well as spontaneous speech, which is made publicly available for research purposes. We start with demonstrating that for automatic speech recognition (ASR), it pays off to know whether speakers are eating or not. We also propose automatic classification both by brute-forcing of low-level acoustic features as well as higher-level features related to intelligibility, obtained from an Automatic Speech Recogniser. Prediction of the eating condition was performed with a Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifier employed in a leave-one-speaker-out evaluation framework. Results show that the binary prediction of eating condition (i. e., eating or not eating) can be easily solved independently of the speaking condition; the obtained average recalls are all above 90%. Low-level acoustic features provide the best performance on spontaneous speech, which reaches up to 62.3% average recall for multi-way classification of the eating condition, i. e., discriminating the six types of food, as well as not eating. The early fusion of features related to intelligibility with the brute-forced acoustic feature set improves the performance on read speech, reaching a 66.4% average recall for the multi-way classification task. Analysing features and classifier errors leads to a suitable ordinal scale for eating conditions, on which automatic regression can be performed with up to 56.2% determination coefficient.

Concepts: Mean, Standard deviation, Support vector machine, Speech recognition, Speech, Speech processing, Computational linguistics, Speech synthesis


Speech Emotion Recognition (SER) can be regarded as a static or dynamic classification problem, which makes SER an excellent test bed for investigating and comparing various deep learning architectures. We describe a frame-based formulation to SER that relies on minimal speech processing and end-to-end deep learning to model intra-utterance dynamics. We use the proposed SER system to empirically explore feed-forward and recurrent neural network architectures and their variants. Experiments conducted illuminate the advantages and limitations of these architectures in paralinguistic speech recognition and emotion recognition in particular. As a result of our exploration, we report state-of-the-art results on the IEMOCAP database for speaker-independent SER and present quantitative and qualitative assessments of the models' performances.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Neuroscience, Educational psychology, Speech recognition, Neural networks, Speech processing, Speech synthesis


The purpose of this article is to assess speech processing for listeners with simulated age-related hearing loss (ARHL) and to investigate whether the observed performance can be replicated using an automatic speech recognition (ASR) system. The long-term goal of this research is to develop a system that will assist audiologists/hearing-aid dispensers in the fine-tuning of hearing aids.

Concepts: Speech recognition, Speech processing, Speech synthesis


The goal of this study was to determine the effect of auditory deprivation and age-related speech decline on perceptuo-motor abilities during speech processing in post-lingually deaf cochlear-implanted participants and in normal-hearing elderly (NHE) participants.

Concepts: Speech recognition, Speech processing, Speech synthesis


Vocoders offer an effective platform to simulate the effects of cochlear implant speech processing strategies in normal-hearing listeners. Several behavioral studies have examined the effects of varying spectral and temporal cues on vocoded speech perception; however, little is known about the neural indices of vocoded speech perception. Here, the scalp-recorded frequency following response (FFR) was used to study the effects of varying spectral and temporal cues on brainstem neural representation of specific acoustic cues, the temporal envelope periodicity related to fundamental frequency (F0) and temporal fine structure (TFS) related to formant and formant-related frequencies, as reflected in the phase-locked neural activity in response to vocoded speech.

Concepts: Psychology, Cochlear implant, Acoustics, Frequency, Sound, Vocoder, Periodicity, Speech synthesis


Cochlear-implant (CI) users with single-sided deafness (SSD)-that is, one normal-hearing (NH) ear and one CI ear-can obtain some unmasking benefits when a mixture of target and masking voices is presented to the NH ear and a copy of just the masking voices is presented to the CI ear. NH listeners show similar benefits in a simulation of SSD-CI listening, whereby a mixture of target and masking voices is presented to one ear and a vocoded copy of the masking voices is presented to the opposite ear. However, the magnitude of the benefit for SSD-CI listeners is highly variable across individuals and is on average less than for NH listeners presented with vocoded stimuli. One possible explanation for the limited benefit observed for some SSD-CI users is that temporal and spectral discrepancies between the acoustic and electric ears might interfere with contralateral unmasking. The present study presented vocoder simulations to NH participants to examine the effects of interaural temporal and spectral mismatches on contralateral unmasking.

Concepts: Ear, Sound, Hearing, Kraftwerk, Vocoder, Speech synthesis, Talk box


Speech segmentation is a crucial step in automatic speech recognition because additional speech analyses are performed for each framed speech segment. Conventional segmentation techniques primarily segment speech using a fixed frame size for computational simplicity. However, this approach is insufficient for capturing the quasi-regular structure of speech, which causes substantial recognition failure in noisy environments. How does the brain handle quasi-regular structured speech and maintain high recognition performance under any circumstance? Recent neurophysiological studies have suggested that the phase of neuronal oscillations in the auditory cortex contributes to accurate speech recognition by guiding speech segmentation into smaller units at different timescales. A phase-locked relationship between neuronal oscillation and the speech envelope has recently been obtained, which suggests that the speech envelope provides a foundation for multi-timescale speech segmental information. In this study, we quantitatively investigated the role of the speech envelope as a potential temporal reference to segment speech using its instantaneous phase information. We evaluated the proposed approach by the achieved information gain and recognition performance in various noisy environments. The results indicate that the proposed segmentation scheme not only extracts more information from speech but also provides greater robustness in a recognition test.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Oscillation, Speech recognition, Natural language processing, Computational linguistics, Speech synthesis, Analytic signal


People with hearing or speaking disabilities are deprived of the benefits of conventional speech recognition technology because it is based on acoustic signals. Recent research has focused on silent speech recognition systems that are based on the motions of a speaker’s vocal tract and articulators. Because most silent speech recognition systems use contact sensors that are very inconvenient to users or optical systems that are susceptible to environmental interference, a contactless and robust solution is hence required. Toward this objective, this paper presents a series of signal processing algorithms for a contactless silent speech recognition system using an impulse radio ultra-wide band (IR-UWB) radar. The IR-UWB radar is used to remotely and wirelessly detect motions of the lips and jaw. In order to extract the necessary features of lip and jaw motions from the received radar signals, we propose a feature extraction algorithm. The proposed algorithm noticeably improved speech recognition performance compared to the existing algorithm during our word recognition test with five speakers. We also propose a speech activity detection algorithm to automatically select speech segments from continuous input signals. Thus, speech recognition processing is performed only when speech segments are detected. Our testbed consists of commercial off-the-shelf radar products, and the proposed algorithms are readily applicable without designing specialized radar hardware for silent speech processing.

Concepts: Speech recognition, Digital signal processing, Radio, Speech, Speech processing, Facial recognition system, Wireless, Speech synthesis