InterSpeech 2021

Adaptive listening to everyday soundscapes

Mounya Elhilali (Johns Hopkins University)
Abstract As we navigate our everyday life, we are continuously parsing through a cacophony of sounds that are constantly impinging on our senses. This ability to sieve through everyday sounds and pick-out signals of interest may seem intuitive and effortless, but it is a real feat that involves complex brain networks that balance the sensory signal with our goals, expectations, attentional state and prior knowledge (what we hear, what we want to hear, what we expect to hear, what we know). A similar challenge faces computer systems that need to adapt to dynamic inputs, evolving objectives and novel surrounds. A growing body of work in neuroscience has been amending our views of processing in the brain; replacing the conventional view of ‘static’ processing with a more ‘active’ and malleable mapping that rapidly adapts to the task at hand and listening conditions. After all, humans and most animals are not specialists, but generalists whose perception is shaped by experience, context and changing behavioral demands. The talk will discuss theoretical formulations of these adaptive processes and lessons to leverage attentional feedback in algorithms for detecting and separating sounds of interest (e.g. speech, music) amidst competing distractors. Bio Mounya Elhilali is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University with a joint appointment in the department of Psychology and Brain Sciences. She directs the Laboratory for Computational Audio Perception and is affiliated with the Center for Speech and Language Processing and the Center for Hearing and Balance. Her research examines sound processing by humans and machines in noisy soundscapes, and investigates reverse engineering intelligent processing of sounds by brain networks with applications to speech and audio technologies and medical systems. She received her Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Elhilali was named the Charles Renn faculty scholar in 2015, received a Johns Hopkins catalyst award in 2017 and was recognized as outstanding women innovator in 2020. She is the recipient of the National Science Foundation career award and the Office of Naval Research young investigator award.