Automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems for children have lagged behind in performance when compared to adult ASR. The exact problems and evaluation methods for child ASR have not yet been fully investigated. Recent work from the robotics community suggests that ASR for kindergarten speech is especially difficult, even though this age group may benefit most from voice-based educational and diagnostic tools. Our study focused on ASR performance for specific grade levels (K-10) using a word identification task. Grade-specific ASR systems were evaluated, with particular attention placed on the evaluation of kindergarten-aged children (5-6 years old). Experiments included investigation of grade-specific interactions with triphone models using feature space maximum likelihood linear regression (fMLLR), vocal tract length normalization (VTLN), and subglottal resonance (SGR) normalization. Our results indicate that kindergarten ASR performs dramatically worse than even 1st grade ASR, likely due to large speech variability at that age. As such, ASR systems may require targeted evaluations on kindergarten speech rather than being evaluated under the guise of “child ASR.” Additionally, results show that systems trained in matched conditions on kindergarten speech may be less suitable than mismatched-grade training with 1st grade speech. Finally, we analyzed the phonetic errors made by the kindergarten ASR.
This content will become publicly available on May 23, 2023
Towards Better Meta-Initialization with Task Augmentation for Kindergarten-Aged Speech Recognition
Children’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) is always difficult due to, in part, the data scarcity problem, especially for kindergarten-aged kids. When data are scarce, the model might overfit to the training data, and hence good starting points for training are essential. Recently, meta-learning was proposed to learn model initialization (MI) for ASR tasks of different languages. This method leads to good performance when the model is adapted to an unseen language. How-ever, MI is vulnerable to overfitting on training tasks (learner overfitting). It is also unknown whether MI generalizes to other low-resource tasks. In this paper, we validate the effectiveness of MI in children’s ASR and attempt to alleviate the problem of learner overfitting. To achieve model-agnostic meta-learning (MAML), we regard children’s speech at each age as a different task. In terms of learner overfitting, we propose a task-level augmentation method by simulating new ages using frequency warping techniques. Detailed experiments are conducted to show the impact of task augmentation on each age for kindergarten-aged speech. As a result, our approach achieves a relative word error rate (WER) improvement of 51% over the baseline system with no augmentation or initialization.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the IEEE ICASSP
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 8582 to 8586
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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