July 14, 2011

DARPA Awards Contract to Develop Robust Speech Processing Software for Noisy Environments

MENLO PARK, Calif., July 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- SRI International has been awarded a $13M contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop software to process noisy and highly degraded speech. The project was awarded as part of DARPA's new Robust Automatic Transcription of Speech (RATS) human language technology research and development program.

For this project, SRI's Speech Technology and Research (STAR) Laboratory will develop speech processing algorithms and software to detect speech activity, identify the speaker and the language being spoken (from a predefined set of speakers and languages), and search for key words. The goal of the program is to extract information from highly distorted audio signals, in a variety of languages. These types of audio signals may be found in many military and civilian contexts, such as air traffic control, emergency and ship radio communications, and call-in segments of talk shows.

To tackle this technology challenge, SRI has formed a team including leading academic speech research groups from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the Berkeley-based International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTDallas).

"Noisy environments and degraded transmission channels pose an enormous challenge to speech processing technology, which means that government and military personnel have to dedicate a significant amount of time analyzing distorted audio recordings," said Horacio Franco, chief scientist at SRI. "The difficulty is exacerbated by the need to handle a mix of languages, some of which, like Dari and Pashto, are not covered by existing commercial software and speech databases. The software that SRI and its partners are developing will be beneficial for defense-related operations that need to gather information and intelligence, such as speech recognition or voice-based speaker verification from a cell phone on a noisy street corner."

About SRI's STAR Lab

SRI's STAR Lab is recognized as a world-leading speech technology organization and has developed products for government and commercial clients. The STAR Lab, which includes engineers, computer scientists, and linguists, offers basic research, technology creation, and technology transfer in areas such as signal processing, mathematical modeling of speech and language, spoken language interfaces, and software engineering.

Previously, SRI's STAR Lab deployed its IraqComm speech-to-speech translation system to U.S. forces in Iraq to help troops overcome the language barrier. Since 2006, more than 200 units have been shipped to Iraq for use in two-way language translation between English and Iraqi Arabic. The IraqComm system was developed as part of DARPA's Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use (TRANSTAC) program.

In addition, SRI recently developed smart-phone applications to translate Dari and Pashto, the two major languages of Afghanistan that will also be targeted by the RATS program. The research for this project was also supported by the TRANSTAC program.

For more information about SRI's STAR Lab, visit: http://www.speech.sri.com/

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, performs sponsored R&D for governments, businesses, and foundations. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. SRI, commemorating its 65th anniversary in 2011, is known for world-changing innovations in computing, health and pharmaceuticals, chemistry and materials, sensing, energy, education, national defense, and more.

SOURCE SRI International