Collaborating Authors


Language-agnostic Multilingual Modeling Machine Learning

Multilingual Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) systems allow for the joint training of data-rich and data-scarce languages in a single model. This enables data and parameter sharing across languages, which is especially beneficial for the data-scarce languages. However, most state-of-the-art multilingual models require the encoding of language information and therefore are not as flexible or scalable when expanding to newer languages. Language-independent multilingual models help to address this issue, and are also better suited for multicultural societies where several languages are frequently used together (but often rendered with different writing systems). In this paper, we propose a new approach to building a language-agnostic multilingual ASR system which transforms all languages to one writing system through a many-to-one transliteration transducer. Thus, similar sounding acoustics are mapped to a single, canonical target sequence of graphemes, effectively separating the modeling and rendering problems. We show with four Indic languages, namely, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Kannada, that the language-agnostic multilingual model achieves up to 10% relative reduction in Word Error Rate (WER) over a language-dependent multilingual model.

Giving Attention to the Unexpected: Using Prosody Innovations in Disfluency Detection Artificial Intelligence

Disfluencies in spontaneous speech are known to be associated with prosodic disruptions. However, most algorithms for disfluency detection use only word transcripts. Integrating prosodic cues has proved difficult because of the many sources of variability affecting the acoustic correlates. This paper introduces a new approach to extracting acoustic-prosodic cues using text-based distributional prediction of acoustic cues to derive vector z-score features (innovations). We explore both early and late fusion techniques for integrating text and prosody, showing gains over a high-accuracy text-only model.

Advancing the State of the Art in Open Domain Dialog Systems through the Alexa Prize Artificial Intelligence

Building open domain conversational systems that allow users to have engaging conversations on topics of their choice is a challenging task. Alexa Prize was launched in 2016 to tackle the problem of achieving natural, sustained, coherent and engaging open-domain dialogs. In the second iteration of the competition in 2018, university teams advanced the state of the art by using context in dialog models, leveraging knowledge graphs for language understanding, handling complex utterances, building statistical and hierarchical dialog managers, and leveraging model-driven signals from user responses. The 2018 competition also included the provision of a suite of tools and models to the competitors including the CoBot (conversational bot) toolkit, topic and dialog act detection models, conversation evaluators, and a sensitive content detection model so that the competing teams could focus on building knowledge-rich, coherent and engaging multi-turn dialog systems. This paper outlines the advances developed by the university teams as well as the Alexa Prize team to achieve the common goal of advancing the science of Conversational AI. We address several key open-ended problems such as conversational speech recognition, open domain natural language understanding, commonsense reasoning, statistical dialog management and dialog evaluation. These collaborative efforts have driven improved experiences by Alexa users to an average rating of 3.61, median duration of 2 mins 18 seconds, and average turns to 14.6, increases of 14%, 92%, 54% respectively since the launch of the 2018 competition. For conversational speech recognition, we have improved our relative Word Error Rate by 55% and our relative Entity Error Rate by 34% since the launch of the Alexa Prize. Socialbots improved in quality significantly more rapidly in 2018, in part due to the release of the CoBot toolkit, with new entrants attaining an average rating of 3.35 just 1 week into the semifinals, compared to 9 weeks in the 2017 competition.

To Reverse the Gradient or Not: An Empirical Comparison of Adversarial and Multi-task Learning in Speech Recognition Machine Learning

Transcribed datasets typically contain speaker identity for each instance in the data. We investigate two ways to incorporate this information during training: Multi-Task Learning and Adversarial Learning. In multi-task learning, the goal is speaker prediction; we expect a performance improvement with this joint training if the two tasks of speech recognition and speaker recognition share a common set of underlying features. In contrast, adversarial learning is a means to learn representations invariant to the speaker. We then expect better performance if this learnt invariance helps generalizing to new speakers. While the two approaches seem natural in the context of speech recognition, they are incompatible because they correspond to opposite gradients back-propagated to the model. In order to better understand the effect of these approaches in terms of error rates, we compare both strategies in controlled settings. Moreover, we explore the use of additional untranscribed data in a semi-supervised, adversarial learning manner to improve error rates. Our results show that deep models trained on big datasets already develop invariant representations to speakers without any auxiliary loss. When considering adversarial learning and multi-task learning, the impact on the acoustic model seems minor. However, models trained in a semi-supervised manner can improve error-rates.

When CTC Training Meets Acoustic Landmarks Artificial Intelligence

Connectionist temporal classification (CTC) training criterion provides an alternative acoustic model (AM) training strategy for automatic speech recognition in an end-to-end fashion. Although CTC criterion benefits acoustic modeling without needs of time-aligned phonetics transcription, it remains in need of efforts of tweaking to convergence, especially in the resource-constrained scenario. In this paper, we proposed to improve CTC training by incorporating acoustic landmarks. We tailored a new set of acoustic landmarks to help CTC training converge more quickly while also reducing recognition error rates. We leveraged new target label sequences mixed with both phone and manner changes to guide CTC training. Experiments on TIMIT demonstrated that CTC based acoustic models converge faster and smoother significantly when they are augmented by acoustic landmarks. The models pretrained with mixed target labels can be finetuned furthermore, which reduced phone error rate by 8.72% on TIMIT. The consistent performance gain is also observed on reduced TIMIT and WSJ as well, in which case, we are the first to succeed in testing the effectiveness of acoustic landmark theory on mid-sized ASR tasks.

Minimum Word Error Rate Training for Attention-based Sequence-to-Sequence Models Machine Learning

Sequence-to-sequence models, such as attention-based models in automatic speech recognition (ASR), are typically trained to optimize the cross-entropy criterion which corresponds to improving the log-likelihood of the data. However, system performance is usually measured in terms of word error rate (WER), not log-likelihood. Traditional ASR systems benefit from discriminative sequence training which optimizes criteria such as the state-level minimum Bayes risk (sMBR) which are more closely related to WER. In the present work, we explore techniques to train attention-based models to directly minimize expected word error rate. We consider two loss functions which approximate the expected number of word errors: either by sampling from the model, or by using N-best lists of decoded hypotheses, which we find to be more effective than the sampling-based method. In experimental evaluations, we find that the proposed training procedure improves performance by up to 8.2% relative to the baseline system. This allows us to train grapheme-based, uni-directional attention-based models which match the performance of a traditional, state-of-the-art, discriminative sequence-trained system on a mobile voice-search task.

Optimizing expected word error rate via sampling for speech recognition Machine Learning

State-level minimum Bayes risk (sMBR) training has become the de facto standard for sequence-level training of speech recognition acoustic models. It has an elegant formulation using the expectation semiring, and gives large improvements in word error rate (WER) over models trained solely using cross-entropy (CE) or connectionist temporal classification (CTC). sMBR training optimizes the expected number of frames at which the reference and hypothesized acoustic states differ. It may be preferable to optimize the expected WER, but WER does not interact well with the expectation semiring, and previous approaches based on computing expected WER exactly involve expanding the lattices used during training. In this paper we show how to perform optimization of the expected WER by sampling paths from the lattices used during conventional sMBR training. The gradient of the expected WER is itself an expectation, and so may be approximated using Monte Carlo sampling. We show experimentally that optimizing WER during acoustic model training gives 5% relative improvement in WER over a well-tuned sMBR baseline on a 2-channel query recognition task (Google Home).

IBM hits new AI milestone with new industry record for speech recognition - Computer Business Review


The company created a technology that recognises spoken words ever closer to human parity. IBM reached a new AI milestone in speech recognition, achieving an industry record of 5.5% word error rate using the Switchboard linguistic corpus. The company broke the industry record by extending its deep learning technologies and incorporating an acoustic model that learns from positive examples while taking advantage of negative ones. The model gets smarter and performs better when similar speech patterns are repeated. IBM achieved another major AI milestone in conversational speech recognition last year with a computer system that reached a word error rate of 6.9%.