Robots to the rescue
It’s called the ‘cocktail party effect’. And it’s a phenomenon that describes our ability to focus our auditory attention on a particular stimulus. For example, our conversation partner while filtering out other sounds like music and clinking glasses. It may even extend to our ability to switch focus when overhearing something important, like our name, in someone else’s conversation.
It’s something we, as humans, are able to do with relative ease. But for robots, understanding environmental sounds and human speech are often very challenging, explains PhD candidate Maani Ghaffari Jadidi. “Robot audition is a challenging area due to the background noise, reverberation, ego-motion noise of the robot, and even the diversity of accents and languages we speak.”
Ghaffari, a student in the Centre for Autonomous Systems (CAS), has just returned from a six-month research collaboration with Honda Research Institute Japan Co Ltd (HRI-JP). The internship came about after Dr Tomonari Furukawa, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virgina Tech, in the USA, who has links to HRI-JP, visited UTS in 2013. Ghaffari and his PhD supervisor Associate Professor Jaime Valls Miro then spent the next 12 months establishing the exchange – a first for UTS students, and not the last.