Breaking the AI sound barrier

If you’re driving north of Cambridge, U.K. and hear the sound of breaking glass coming from an airport hangar, it’s not vandalism.

The noise is being made by Chris Mitchell and his team at Audio Analytic and they believe they’re breaking the AI sound barrier.

Chris is the founder and CEO of the company. They’re working on something they’ve dubbed “artificial audio intelligence,” which he describes as a new type of sound recognition for smart home applications.

“What it does,” Chris says, “is discover the underlying language of sounds and enables machines to then detect those sounds and respond to them.”

This area of AI is fairly new, because Chris says sound recognition is a zero data problem: “If you haven’t got any data readily available obviously there’s not very much to teach an artificial intelligence machine.”

Audio Analytic is working to develop a database of sounds mainly related to home safety and security. Some of those sounds include baby cries, dog barks, smoke detector alarms, and breaking glass.

Gathering the sound of breaking glass was a particularly huge undertaking which involved setting up at an old RAF hangar.

“It’s designed for testing jet engines in it which is perfect for us because the bit where the jet engine goes is very soundproof and then you’ve got a huge hangar that you can put glass inside of,” says Chris.

The team then spent weeks, often wearing protective Kevlar gear, breaking different types of glass and recording the sound.

All those authentic sounds being gathered by Audio Analytic are crucial for accurate sound recognition.

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