Teaching computers to replace lost sounds

March 21, 2002

TROY, N.Y. -- Mike Savic can't recapture the 18 missing minutes of the Watergate tapes, but he can teach computers to deliver sounds that have been damaged in transmission. His research will aid military communications, improve hearing aids, and possibly find music's lost chords.

Savic, a professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., is accomplishing the task by reversing previous work. He previously taught computers to identify languages by distinguishing sound patterns. Now, by starting with the typical sounds of a known language -- and the most popular transitions between them -- he can begin to reconstruct missing sequences by looking at the most probable options.

Applications for this technology abound. For example, when a pilot communicates with the control tower, a word or two may be drowned out by thunder or some other loud noise. Almost instantly, the computer would reconstruct the words to ensure safe communication between the airport and the airliner. Hearing aids could connect to a chip and work in the same fashion.

Savic envisions that the technology would be useful to historians as well and would not be relegated to sound analysis alone. Anything that has a pattern to it could benefit from the technology. If historians had a page of an old handwritten text with bits missing, and they knew the author, the computer could reconstruct the text in the same way that it would reconstruct speech.

Savic is working with graduate student Mike Moore and several undergraduates on the project, which is funded by the U.S Air Force. A patent was recently filed for this technology.
-end-
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The school offers degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research and teaching. The Institute is especially well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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