Sound travels as waves, which continue to bounce off surfaces like walls and ceilings. These reflected waves or reverberations interfere with the original sound. This noise or acoustic reverberation makes it harder for us to hear the original sound and can reduce the quality of speech, music and other audio.
The EU-funded DREAMS ('Dereverberation and Reverberation of Audio, Music and Speech') project is working on developing ways to better dampen this effect - allowing us to hear more clearly.
The research could lead to improved automatic speech recognition software, better hearing aids, and higher quality sound from our mobile phones, tablets, iPods and other portable music players. Better microphones, megaphones and room acoustics could be developed for small and large venues and gatherings.
The project, led by Belgium's Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is focusing on four areas that will help scientists understand the scientific challenges: room acoustics, signal processing, psychoacoustics (the way the human body processes sound, both psychologically and physically), and speech and audio processing.
The researchers intend to develop models and algorithms to allow users to predict speech intelligibility and speech quality with more accuracy. The models and algorithms could be used to improve acoustic signals, to better imitate sounds and to design better sound systems, for example.
The algorithms could be used to extract better quality from a variety of low-quality audio recordings - useful for environmental, forensic and law enforcement monitoring and surveillance.
An important part of the project's work will be to provide training to 12 early-stage researchers, helping them become leaders in the field.
DREAMS began in February 2013 and is scheduled to end in December 2016. Over EUR 4 million in funding is foreseen under the Marie Curie Actions - Networks for Initial Training, managed by the Research Executive Agency (REA).
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More information: DREAMS www.dreams-itn.eu/