SPRAAK: Speech Processing, Recognition and Automatic Annotation Kit
The availability of a speech recognition system for Dutch is mentioned as one of the essential requirements for the language and speech technology community. Indeed, researchers now are faced with the problem that no good speech recognition tool is available for their purposes or existing tools lack functionality or flexibility. This project has two primary goals that are accomplished within a single software framework. The first goal is to develop a highly modular toolkit for research into speech recognition algorithms. It allows researchers to focus on one particular aspect of speech recognition technology without needing to worry about the details of the other components. The second goal is to provide a state-of-the art recogniser for Dutch with a simple interface, so that it can be used by non-specialists with a minimum of programming requirements. Next to speech recognition, the resulting software enables applications in related fields as well. Examples are linguistic and phonetic research where the software can be used to segment large speech databases or to provide high quality automatic transcriptions. We have chosen the existing ESAT recogniser, augmented with knowledge and code from the other partners in the project, as a starting point. This code base is transformed to meet the specified requirements. The transformation is accomplished by improving the software interfaces to make the software package more user friendly and adapted for usage in a large user community, and by providing adequate user and developer documentation written in English, so as to make it easily accessible to the international language and speech technology community as well.
The SPRAAK toolkit has emerged as the transformation of KULeuven/ESAT’s previous speech recognition system (HMM75 was the latest version). This system is the result of 20 years of research and development in speech recognition at the KULeuven. We want to acknowledge the contributions of many researchers (too many to list them all) most of which have by now left the university after having obtained their PhD degree.
The SPRAAK project has also added some extra functionality to the previous system and has produced demo acoustic models and documentation. This was done in a collaborative effort with four partners: KULeuven/ESAT, RUNijmegen/CSLT, UTwente/HMI and TNO. The contributions of all these partners are also acknowledged.
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