Review of Objectives Completion

Upon the thesis start (ad stated in the introduction) a set of objectives was set. At this point these were all successfully completed and will be reviewed in the following paragraphs.

In general, a successful system was implemented basing it on the broadcast news technology available at ICSI at the start of the thesis. During this process most of the differences between broadcast news and meetings were analyzed and algorithms were proposed to bridge the gap between both. These were, for example, the multi-channel setup in the meetings versus a single broadcast news channel, the different nature of the non-speech data to be detected and the existence of shorter (in average) speaker. When developing the system it was made modular so that the acoustic beamformer, the speech/non-speech detector and the speaker diarization modules were independent from each other and passing the information between them in files. This allowed the use of the beamforming module for the automatic speech recognition system for meetings, with good results.

Two main ideals that were already in place at ICSI at the start of the thesis were followed at heart. These were making the system be easy to adapt to new domains and that parameters should be robust and not flaky. In terms of easy adaptation, as has been already mentioned, the system was developed using separate blocks to allow for an easy recombination depending on the necessities. In fact, already within the meetings domain, the same speaker diarization module and the speech/non-speech module were reused for SDM and MDM conditions, either using the beamforming as an initial step or not. The core speaker diarization module was kept very similar to the broadcast news system, therefore it could be readapted to that domain with little effort.

In terms of robustness and lack of flakiness, they are problems present in many current speaker diarization systems under research nowadays. Mostly with the inclusion of the proposed new diarization module algorithms it has been shown in the experiments that final results on development and test follow each other closely, showing an increase in robustness from the start of the thesis work. Regarding flakiness, some parameters were defined to substitute others which experienced important differences in Diarization Error Rate (DER) when slightly modifying its value. The DER value accounts for the percentage of incorrectly assigned time. With the new parameters, in many cases, it was shown that the DER curves were flatter, reducing therefore the flakiness. In some other cases there is still work to do.

Although the system needs the use of development data in order to tune some of the parameters in it, with the development of a hybrid speech/non-speech detector it does not require anymore the use of any external training data. This speaks also in favor of self-sufficiency of the system, which is another ideal followed during its implementation, very much in tune with the capability for fast adaptation to new domains and robustness to changes in the data being tested.

Both in 2005 and 2006 the speaker diarization system entered the NIST Rich Transcription (RT) evaluations where a common task and common datasets were processed by multiple research laboratories. In both entries the ICSI system performed very well. This was established as a goal or milestone in order to push the research and development of the system to be available for the evaluations. In 2005 the main improvement consisted on the development of the initial version of the beamforming system. In 2006 it was a set of improvements to the beamforming and many changes made to the speaker diarization module, as well as a totally new speech/non-speech detector.

As important as the technical improvements and innovations are the tasks to increase public awareness on the system and algorithms being proposed. To this respect, the RT evaluations are a wonderful way to meet people from the same research area and to expose one's research to the community. Another very important way is the publication of articles in conferences and technical magazines. From the start of this thesis work more than 15 papers have been accepted for publication which explain the different improvements and capabilities of the system.

Yet another way is the transfer of technology or knowledge between research labs, which allows other researcher to build on top of pre-established research from other researchers. This was the case of TNO-Twente research group (within the AMI project group) which implemented part of their RT06s contribution based on ICSI's system, or LIA (Avignon) which experimented with the segment purification algorithm originally proposed in RT05s ICSI's submission. Also in this group is the direct transfer of resources by means of system source code, as it was originally done by IDIAP to bring to ICSI the initial speaker diarization system (thanks to Jitendra Ajmera), and was followed recently by the author to take it to the University of Washington (UW). Finally, recently the diarization system has been adapted for speaker tracking used in a Spanish evaluation task within UPC [*].

user 2008-12-08