Annual Report 1999
Table of Contents
Communication and interaction between humans via speech and music is
the unifying theme of research and teaching within the Department of Speech, Music and Hearing. The department
is engaged in a diverse set of multi-disciplinary activities, commonly classified into speech communication, speech
technology, speech coding, music acoustics, and auditory perception, to mention the largest areas.
In speech research,
projects range from the development of theoretical models of speech production
through phonetic analyses to practical applications of speech technology. Multimodal dialogue systems, aiming at
fast and efficient communication between a computer and a human via speech and vision, are rapidly gaining a central
role in speech technology. In these systems, many of the classical topics in speech research such as synthesis,
continuous speech recognition, and speaker characterisation are brought together and tested in practice. A successful
implementation has been the animated talking agent August
, from which considerable experience on man - machine dialogue has been gained.
Speech signal processing
presents a palette of projects of vital importance to modern consumer products like mobile telephony, home audio
and Internet services. Coding and compression of speech and audio are the central topics. Coding strategies based
on models of our hearing (auditory modelling) has potentials both for low bit-rate coding as well as for coding
algorithms with improved sound quality. Auditory modelling approaches may also work efficiently for coding voice
and audio for transmission over the Internet.
In music acoustics,
the physics of the traditional musical instruments, such as strings and winds,
is a classical topic which is still far from completely explored. The voice holds a unique position both as a musical
instrument in singing as well as the acoustical carrier in speech. A current topic of common interest to speech
and voice research is articulatory modelling, aiming at a more natural synthesis. In this approach the positions
and movements of the articulatory organs are modelled, rather than the parameters in the acoustic domain such as
spectral characteristics. In studies of music performance, emotions are attracting more attention. Emotional colouring
can raise the "artistic level" of a computer performance by enhancing the mood of the piece.
Research and development within hearing
technology is centred around improved electronic aids for hearing-impaired
persons. Multimodal sensory aids, such as a talking, animated agent which provides lip-reading support over a telephone
connection as a support to voice information, is an example of a current project shared by the hearing and speech
technology groups. Digital hearing aids, which adapt automatically to varying listening conditions, can improve
listening comfort in everyday life, for instance by suppressing background noise. Parallel achievements in several
basic research areas are necessary for the development of advanced hearing aids, including theoretical models of
auditory perception and the perception of sounds by the hearing impaired, in particular speech.
As before we are heavily dependent on external funding. The research
at the department continues to attract considerable interest from the Swedish telecom industry. The major partners
are Telia and Ericsson, each of which supports an academic chair. The Centre
of excellence in Speech Technology (CTT), which is associated
with the department, is an important organisational structure in our research contacts with industry. The centre,
which includes 14 partners from Swedish telecom and IT-industry, is operated under support from Nutek (Swedish
National Board for Industrial and Technical Development) and KTH.
Other sources for research funding include the major Swedish research
councils, international telecom industry, the European Commission, and private foundations, in particular the Bank
of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation.
The vivid activity at the department is reflected in a high output of
reports. During the past year, 12 articles were published or accepted in international scientific journals with
peer reviewing. In addition, our quarterly research report (TMH-QPSR),
with a world-wide edition of 925 copies, provides the latest news concerning
research at the department. More than 50 presentations were given at international conferences.
European Summer School on Language and Speech Communication (MiLaSS) was organised
by the department during two weeks in July. The event attracted doctoral students from countries all over the world.
The size of the department seems now to have reached a more stable state.
At the end of 1999, a total of 66 researchers and research students and eight administrators were employed at the
department. The turnover during 1999 was 36 MSEK including CTT.
Over the years since the founding of the department, research funding
has been a continuous concern that engages professors and project leaders heavily. It is true that the broad range
of topics covered at the department requires support from a diverse set of research foundations, industry partners
and other sources. However, more stable, long-term funding for some central research areas has been, and still
is, a highly desired goal. In the near future, the Swedish research foundations will be re-organised. The future
conditions for support to speech-related research will be of vital importance for the department.
In October the founder of the Department, Professor
celebrated his 80th birthday. A full-mustered delegation from the department invaded his home
and presented him with a brand new portrait and copies of films showing similar ceremonies on his 50th
and 60th birthdays. Inspections of the new and a 30-year-old portrait revealed only minor differences.
A further analysis based on comparisons between highlights from the films and his present-day appearance gave a
similar result. A few days later Gunnar was back at work at the department as usual.
At a large department, colleagues naturally leave every year and new
ones arrive. Sometimes, however, the fragile conditions for health and human life are brutally exposed, and the
farewell is forever.
In March 1999, our colleague and dear friend Lennart Nord passed away
at the age of 52. His premature departure from this life touched us deeply. Lennart Nord had been with the department
since 1970. His research interests were in acoustic phonetics, in particular vowel reduction, and in pathological
speech. His thorough insights in the production of speech made him an appreciated teacher in phonetics. For many
years he was involved in the education of speech and language pathologists at the Karolinska Institute, giving
the students a firm basis in the acoustic secrets of the speech sounds. We remember him as a warm and kind person
with deep interests in the humanities and remarkable musical skills on a diverse set of instruments. We miss him