No human touch needed: Computers learn new way to recognize natural sound

With speech recognition getting better every day, it’s remarkable how well Siri, Alexa, and Cortana can parse human speech. But what about cheering crowds or crashing waves? Can our AI personal assistants tell the difference between those? Well, probably not. Sound recognition is actually very difficult for computers, particularly natural sounds.

From our smartphones to our most advanced supercomputers, recognizing images and speech is something they’re able to do fairly well across the board. While natural sounds have been an exception, that may be about to change. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology might have found a solution.

According to Phys.Org, a group of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL, have pioneered a new way to teach computers to recognize sound – by cutting out the middle men.

Normally, vast databases of sounds need to be annotated by hand, by humans, to teach computers how to recognize and identify particular sounds. This new method, however, circumvents the human element by using video.

“Computer vision has gotten so good that we can transfer it to other domains. We’re capitalizing on the natural synchronization between vision and sound. We scale up with tons of unlabeled video to understand sound,” Carl Vondrick, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering, told Phys.Org.

The new system essentially leverages a computer’s ability to recognize visual information and tie that recognition to its understanding of the sounds the videos produce. Think of it this way, the computers recognize objects in the video, and look for correlations between the appearance of those objects and the sound information they’re processing.

It’s a quicker, easier, and more accurate way to train computers to recognize sounds. According to a research paper, it’s between 13 and 15 percent more accurate than the previous method of hand-annotating massive libraries of sounds and feeding that information into a computer.

The CSAIL research team’s full conclusions will be presented at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in early December.


From hot rods to budget sleepers, our favorite desktops can handle anything

Are laptops overrated? Experience the power offered by the best desktop computers on the market today, whether you're in need of a budget solution or a fire-breathing, $4,000 premium gaming rig.

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.

You don't have to spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Amazon sale knocks $200 off the price of 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

If you always wanted to buy a MacBook Pro but found it a bit too expensive, now is your chance to save. A base version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is currently on sale at Amazon for $1,600.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

The Surface Go vs. Surface Pro — which is better? While the higher price tag of one might make you think it's an easy choice, a deeper dive into what each offers makes it a closer race than you might assume.

Apple’s 4K 21.5-inch iMac is now $200 off if you pre-order it

Apple's new iMacs are now available and if you pre-order one from B&H you can get the midrange version for $200. That's a near 20-percent saving on one of the most competitive configurations.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.

Own an Asus computer? Malware might be hiding in your system

If you own an Asus computer, your system might have been infected by malware distributed from the tool you typically use to update the BIOS and install other security patches, according to a new report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab.

The new Windows 10 File Explorer could look like this in 2020

Microsoft may update Windows 10's File Explorer to adopt Fluent Design principles in an upcoming 2020 update. A report suggests that we'll get our first glimpse at the new-look explorer in upcoming Windows Insider builds.

Hands-on with Microsoft Chromium Edge: A first look at the early release

We installed a preview of Edge Chromium, and there's now a lot that makes it feel Chrome, but there are also some similarities to the old Edge. So, is the new Chromium Edge the best browser ever? Here's a hands-on look.