£1.6m research project to 'make sense of sounds'

Thursday 1 October 2015

ENGINEERS have been awarded £1.6M by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to help the UK make better use of millions of hours of sound recordings.


Making Sense of Sounds builds on work underway in the existing £6.7M EPSRC collaboration S3A  involving the universities of Salford, Surrey, Southampton and the BBC.

Starting in January 2016, Professor Trevor Cox, Dr Bill Davies and colloborators will investigate how to make sense from sound data, focussing on how to convert audio recordings into understandable and actionable information: specifically how to allow people to search, browse and interact with sounds.


Dr Davies, a senior lecturer in acoustic engineering at Salford University, explained: “Increasing quantities of sound data are being gathered in the home, at work and on digital platforms. For example, The British Library Sound Archive has over a million discs and thousands of tapes; the BBC has some 1 million hours of digitized content; and 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.”

“However, the ability to understand and interact with all this sound data is hampered by a lack of tools allowing people to ‘make sense of sounds’ based on the audio content, so our work will investigate and develop new signal processing methods to analyse sound and audiovisual files and new interaction methods to search and browse through sets of sound files.

The EPSRC says potential beneficiaries for the research include archivists, radio and television programme makers, sound artists and musicians, and educators who will benefit from new ways to find material on particular topics (machines, wildlife) based on their sound properties rather than metadata.


Added Bill: “For the general public, many people are now building their own archives of recordings, in the form of videos with soundtracks, and may in future include photographs with associated sounds (audiophotographs). This research will help people make sense of the sounds that surround us, and the associations and memories that they bring.”

The project is being led by Professor Mark Plumbley at the University of Surrey.

Find out more about the Acoustic Engineering Research Group.