How Meta AI’s New Dataset Boosts Speech Recognition Accuracy

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In the year 2023, the limitations of speech recognition technology are still evident. Despite significant advancements in generative AI, our mobile devices’ synthetic assistants, like Siri, continue to struggle with accurate speech recognition. However, Meta AI has developed a groundbreaking dataset that has the potential to enhance the performance of automatic speech recognition (ASR) tools. This dataset focuses on clustering speech at the “utterance level.”


A woman speaking into a smartphone with a voice command interface on the screen

Meta Previous efforts include training models without relying on transcripts, supporting over 4,000 spoken languages, and even surpassing human experts in lip-reading proficiency. However, existing ASR training datasets are organized based on demographic factors such as age group, gender, nationality, and English accent. This approach limits the variations in pronunciation that models are exposed to, thereby hindering their ability to understand a wide range of users.


To address this challenge, Meta AI has introduced a novel dataset that utilizes an utterance clustering method. Instead of categorizing the dataset by demographic information, Meta AI’s algorithm clusters speech at the utterance level. Each cluster comprises similar utterances from a diverse group of speakers. This approach enables training models using a variety of clusters and evaluating model fairness across different demographic groups using fairness datasets.


The resulting Meta dataset consists of approximately 27,000 command utterances collected from 595 paid US volunteers. These utterances encompass seven primary themes: music, capture, utilities, notification control, messaging, calling, and dictation. Researchers can utilize these prompts to train their own models and digital assistants. Examples of prompts include voice-searching for a song or making plans with friends and determining a meeting place.


To evaluate the effectiveness of this new system, Meta initially trained a model on publicly-available English-language Facebook videos. The researchers then assessed the model’s performance using two additional datasets: Casual Conversations v1 (released by Meta in 2021) and a de-identified dataset obtained from a third-party data supplier for ASR. The latter dataset contains 48,000 spoken utterances from 867 individuals.


A diagram showing the utterance clustering method used by Meta AI to create the dataset

Preliminary results have demonstrated promising outcomes. The model showcased performance improvements across all demographic groups in the evaluation datasets. Notably, the clustering method significantly enhanced the inclusivity of accents, resulting in a 10% overall improvement in ASR performance. The age group of 66-85, which has traditionally been underrepresented in the voice command space, experienced particularly substantial gains.


“Our proposed algorithm is aligned with Meta’s long-term commitment to responsible AI and represents just one aspect of our comprehensive approach to address fairness concerns,” stated the researchers. Looking ahead, the team aims to explore adapting the system to support other languages, further expanding the impact of their work.


In summary, Meta AI’s innovative dataset, which leverages speaker clustering, has the potential to revolutionize speech recognition training. By utilizing a more diverse range of utterances from various speakers, this approach leads to improved ASR performance and enhanced inclusivity, while aligning with Meta’s overarching goals of responsible AI development.


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