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Reflections on DCASE 2021

This week was the DCASE 2021 workshop, a great workshop with lots of interesting research activity on Detection and Classification of Acoustic Scenes and Events.

Some observations from me:

  • The development of "SED" (sound event detection) into "SELD" (sound event localisation and detection) is really welcome. There are lots of applications in which we want to infer the spatial location (or the direction) of the sound sources: robotics, bioacoustic surveying, etc. I saw some high-quality performance, and good development of synthetic training datasets etc.
    • There will always be tasks with no spatial information (lots of them!), so it seems likely that both SED and SELD should continue to be refined, in parallel.
    • The addition of spatial localisation brings the subject matter even closer to that of our underwater cousin DCLDE (Detection, Classification, Localization, and Density Estimation of Marine Mammals using Passive Acoustics). There's no need to consider "merging" workshops, but perhaps we should have more exchange between these communities.
  • I appreciated the focus on small-footprint neural networks which was created by Task 1a's requirement for submitted systems to have a limited number of parameters (limited to 128kb of nonzero parameters). I remain unsure about whether this specific constraint is the best one - what about the size of the model, for example? It could be nice to try something such as applying a total RAM constraint on the entire process. But, still, the challenge encouraged the production on good small-footprint classifiers.
  • I am proud of our work on Task 5, "few-shot bioacoustic event detection", of the large team that put it together, and the submitted works! I'm particularly proud because the way we designed the task is extremely closely linked to problems that practitioners in bioacoustics or animal behaviour face, and I think that with a little more development, we can hand them some good useful tools. I believe we have a very good balance: a task that is needed in practice, while also being conceptually interesting for algorithm development. (Here's a quick video overview of the task by Veronica.)

In the "town hall" plenary we discussed some interesting opinions about how to organise DCASE going forward. There was also a very interesting discussion, emerging from the "industry panel" plenary, of privacy and GDPR issues in using sound sensors in public. I'd like to thank the contributors to that discussion - it's a non-trivial issue and so it's very good to hear some well-considered perspectives on this.

You can watch the videos from DCASE 2021 here.

I'm looking forward to DCASE 2022 - in Nancy, France, in November. See you there!

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