Acoustic Echo Cancellation Challenge – ICASSP 2021

About

The ICASSP 2021 Acoustic Echo Cancellation Challenge is intended to stimulate research in the area of acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), which is an important part of speech enhancement and still a top issue in audio communication and conferencing systems. Many recent AEC studies report reasonable performance on synthetic datasets where the train and test samples come from the same underlying distribution. However, the AEC performance often degrades significantly on real recordings. Also, most of the conventional objective metrics such as echo return loss enhancement (ERLE) and perceptual evaluation of speech quality (PESQ) do not correlate well with subjective speech quality tests in the presence of background noise and reverberation found in realistic environments.

In this challenge, we open source two large datasets to train AEC models under both single talk and double talk scenarios. These datasets consist of recordings from more than 2,500 real audio devices and human speakers in real environments, as well as a synthetic dataset. We open source an online subjective test framework based on ITU-T P.808 for researchers to quickly test their results. The winners of this challenge will be selected based on the average P.808 Mean Opinion Score (MOS) achieved across all different single talk and double talk scenarios.

Submission instructions

Please use Microsoft Conference Management Toolkit for submitting the results. After logging in, complete the following steps to submit the results:

  1. Choose “Create new submission” in the Author Console.
  2. Enter title, abstract and co-authors, and upload a lastname.txt file (can be empty or contain additional information regarding the submission).
  3. Compress the enhanced results files to a single lastname.zip file, retaining the same folder and file names as the blind test set (max file size: 350 MB).
  4. After creating the submission, return to the “Author Console” (by clicking on “Submissions” at the top of the page) and upload the lastname.zip file via “Upload Supplementary Material”.

Submission deadline: Oct 9, 2020, 11:59pm (anywhere on Earth)

For questions, please contact aec_challenge@microsoft.com

Rules

Official Rules

SPONSOR

These Official Rules (“Rules”) govern the operation of the Microsoft M365 Core ICASSP 2021 AEC (see overview) Event Contest (“Contest”). Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA, 98052, USA, is the Contest sponsor (“Sponsor”).

DEFINITIONS

In these Rules, “Microsoft”, “we”, “our”, and “us”, refer to Sponsor and “you” and “yourself” refers to a Contest participant, or the parent/legal guardian of any Contest entrant who has not reached the age of majority to contractually obligate themselves in their legal place of residence. “Event” refers to the ICASSP 2021 AEC (see overview) event held in Toronto, Canada (the “Event”). By entering you (your parent/legal guardian if you are not the age of majority in your legal place of residence) agree to be bound by these Rules.

ENTRY PERIOD

The Contest will operate from September 7, 2020 to October 19, 2020 (“Entry Period”). The Entry Period is divided into several periods as described in section How to Enter.

ELIGIBILITY

Open to any registered Event attendee 18 years of age or older. If you are 18 years of age or older but have not reached the age of majority in your legal place of residence, then you must have consent of a parent/legal guardian. Employees and directors of Microsoft Corporation and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising agencies, and Contest Parties are not eligible, nor are persons involved in the execution or administration of this promotion, or the family members of each above (parents, children, siblings, spouse/domestic partners, or individuals residing in the same household). Void in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Region of Crimea, and where prohibited. For business/tradeshow events: If you are attending the Event in your capacity as an employee, it is your sole responsibility to comply with your employer’s gift policies. Microsoft will not be party to any disputes or actions related to this matter.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are a public sector employee (government and education), all prize awards will be awarded directly to your public sector organization and subject to receipt of a gift letter signed by your agency/institution’s ethics officer, attorney, or designated executive/officer responsible for your organization’s gifts/ethics policy. Microsoft seeks to ensure that by offering items of value at no charge in promotional settings it does not create any violation of the letter or spirit of the entrant’s applicable gifts and ethics rules.

HOW TO ENTER

The Contest Objective is to promote collaborative research in real-time single-channel Speech Enhancement aimed to maximize the subjective (perceptual) quality of the enhanced speech. Prizes will be awarded based on the speech quality of AEC models using the online subjective evaluation framework ITU-T P.808. Only models described in accepted ICASSP 2021 papers will be eligible for prizes. See (yet to upload the paper) for additional Contest details. You may participate as an individual or a team. If forming a team, you must designate a “Team Captain” who will submit all entry materials on behalf of the team and act as the recipient of any prizes that the team may win. Once you register as part of a Team, you cannot change Teams or alter your current team (either by adding or removing members) after the submission of your Entry. Limit one Entry per person and per team. You may not compete on multiple teams and you may not enter individually and on a team. We are not responsible for Entries that we do not receive for any reason, or for Entries that we receive but are not decipherable or not functional for any reason. Each Team is solely responsible for its own cooperation and teamwork. In no event will Microsoft officiate in any dispute regarding the conduct or cooperation of any Team or its members. The Contest will operate as follows: Registration / Development Period: September 7 – October 19, 2020. To register, please send an email to aec_challenge@microsoft.com stating that you are interested to participate in the challenge. Please include the following details in your email:

  • Names of the participants and name of the team captain
  • Institution/Company
  • Email

Then i. develop a speech enhancement model that best meets the Contest Objective as described more fully at (yet to be uploaded) and ii. submit a paper to ICASSP 2021 which reports the computational complexity of the model in terms of the number of parameters and the time it takes to infer a frame on a particular CPU (preferably Intel Core i5 quad core machine clocked at 2.4 GHz). To develop your model, use any publicly available dataset for training data, including the Contest datasets provided for training and developing models. You may augment your datasets with the Contest dataset. You can augment your data in any way that improves the performance of your model.

The final evaluation will be conducted on a blind test set that is similar to the open sourced test set. Testing / Entry Period: September 8 – October 16, 2020. On October 2, the blind test dataset will be made available. You will have until 11:59 PM PT on October 9 to test your model against this dataset and create a set of enhanced clips to submit for judging (your “Entry”).

The rules of the challenge are as follows:

  • The AEC must take less than the stride time T_s (in ms) to process a frame of size T (in ms) on an Intel Core i5 quad-core machine clocked at 2.4 GHz or equivalent processors. For example, T_s = T/2 for 50% overlap between frames. The total algorithmic latency allowed including the frame size T, stride time T_s, and any look ahead must be  40ms. For example, for a real-time system that receives 20ms audio chunks, if you use a frame length of 20ms with a stride of 10ms resulting in an algorithmic delay of 30ms, then you satisfy the latency requirements. If you use a frame size of 32ms with a stride of 16ms resulting in an algorithmic delay of 48ms, then your method does not satisfy the latency requirements as the total algorithmic latency exceeds 40ms. If your frame size plus stride T_1=T+T_s is less than 40ms, then you can use up to (40-T_1)ms future information.
  • The AEC can be a deep model, a traditional signal processing algorithm, or a mix of the two. There are no restrictions on the AEC aside from the run time and algorithmic delay described above.
  • Submissions must follow instructions on overview.
  • Winners will be picked based on the subjective echo MOS evaluated on the blind test set using ITU-T P.808 framework described in Section \ref{sec:framework}.
  • The blind test set will be made available to the participants on October 2, 2020. Participants must send the results (audio clips) achieved by their developed models to the organizers. We will use the submitted clips to conduct ITU-T P.808 subjective evaluation and pick the winners based on the results. Participants are forbidden from using the blind test set to retrain or tune their models. They should not submit results using other AEC methods that they are not submitting to ICASSP 2021. Failing to adhere to these rules will lead to disqualification from the challenge.
  • Participants should report the computational complexity of their model in terms of the number of parameters and the time it takes to infer a frame on a particular CPU (preferably Intel Core i5 quad-core machine clocked at 2.4 GHz). Among the submitted proposals differing by less than 0.1 MOS, the lower complexity model will be given a higher ranking.
  • Each participating team must submit an ICASSP paper that summarizes the research efforts and provide all the details to ensure reproducibility. Authors may choose to report additional objective/subjective metrics in their paper.
  • Submitted papers will undergo the standard peer-review process of ICASSP 2021. The paper needs to be accepted to the conference for the participants to be eligible for the challenge.

ICASSP 2021 Paper Submission and Judging Period: October 19, 2020 – 11:59 PM PT January 22, 2021 Your Entry must be described in a paper accepted by ICASSP 2021. To submit a paper, visit https://2021.ieeeicassp.org/.

The entry limit is one per person during the Entry Period. Any attempt by any you to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different accounts, identities, registrations, logins, or any other methods will void your entries and you may be disqualified. Use of any automated system to participate is prohibited. We are not responsible for excess, lost, late, or incomplete entries. If disputed, entries will be deemed submitted by the “authorized account holder” of the email address, social media account, or other method used to enter. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned to an email address by an internet or online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses.

ELIGIBLE ENTRY

To be eligible, an entry must meet the following content/technical requirements:

  • Your Entry must be the method described in a paper accepted by ICASSP 2021.
  • Your entry must be your own original work; and
  • Your entry cannot have been selected as a winner in any other contest; and
  • You must have obtained any and all consents, approvals, or licenses required for you to submit your entry; and
  • To the extent that entry requires the submission of user-generated content such as software, photos, videos, music, artwork, essays, etc., entrants warrant that their entry is their original work, has not been copied from others without permission or apparent rights, and does not violate the privacy, intellectual property rights, or other rights of any other person or entity. You may include Microsoft trademarks, logos, and designs, for which Microsoft grants you a limited license to use for the sole purposes of submitting an entry into this Contest; and
  • Your entry may NOT contain, as determined by us in our sole and absolute discretion, any content that is obscene or offensive, violent, defamatory, disparaging or illegal, or that promotes alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco or a particular political agenda, or that communicates messages that may reflect negatively on the goodwill of Microsoft.
  • Your entry must NOT include enhanced clips using other AEC methods that you are not submitting to ICASSP 2021.

USE OF ENTRIES

We are not claiming ownership rights to your Submission. However, by submitting an entry, you grant us an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right and license to use, review, assess, test and otherwise analyze your entry and all its content in connection with this Contest and use your entry in any media whatsoever now known or later invented for any non-commercial or commercial purpose, including, but not limited to, the marketing, sale or promotion of Microsoft products or services, without further permission from you. You will not receive any compensation or credit for use of your entry, other than what is described in these Official Rules. By entering you acknowledge that the we may have developed or commissioned materials similar or identical to your entry and you waive any claims resulting from any similarities to your entry. Further you understand that we will not restrict work assignments of representatives who have had access to your entry and you agree that use of information in our representatives’ unaided memories in the development or deployment of our products or services does not create liability for us under this agreement or copyright or trade secret law. Your entry may be posted on a public website. We are not responsible for any unauthorized use of your entry by visitors to this website. We are not obligated to use your entry for any purpose, even if it has been selected as a winning entry.

WINNER SELECTION AND NOTIFICATION

Pending confirmation of eligibility, potential prize winners will be selected by Microsoft or their Agent or a qualified judging panel from among all eligible entries received based on the following judging criteria: 99% – The subjective speech quality evaluated on the blind test set using ITU-T P.808 framework. We will use the submitted clips with no alteration to conduct ITU-T P.808 subjective evaluation and pick the winners based on the results. Among the submitted proposals differing by less than 0.1 MOS, the lower complexity model will be given higher ranking. See for additional Contest details. 1% – The Entry was described in an accepted ICASSP 2021 paper Winners will be selected within 7 days following the event. Winners will be notified within 7 days following the Event with winner instructions, including a prize claim deadline. In the event of a tie between any eligible entries, an additional judge will break the tie based on the judging criteria described above. The decisions of the judges are final and binding. If we do not receive a sufficient number of entries meeting the entry requirements, we may, at our discretion, select fewer winners than the number of Contest Prizes described below. If public vote determines winners, it is prohibited for any person to obtain votes by any fraudulent or inappropriate means, including offering prizes or other inducements in exchange for votes, automated programs or fraudulent ID’s. Microsoft will void any questionable votes. Winners will be notified via the contact information provided during entry and may be required to complete a prize claim and tax form (“Forms”). If a selected winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim a prize or fails to return any Forms, the selected winner will forfeit their prize and an alternate winner will be selected time allowing. Only three alternate winners will be selected, after which unclaimed prizes will remain unawarded.

PRIZES

The following prizes will be awarded: First Prize: The winner will receive: $1,000, paid in the form of a check from the sponsor or donation to the Individual Entrant or Team Captain’s Educational institution. Approximate Retail Value (ARV) $1,000.00.Second Prize: The winner will receive: $500, paid in the form of a check from the sponsor or donation to the Individual Entrant or Team Captain’s Educational Institution Approximate Retail Value (ARV) Third Prizes: The winner will receive: A(n) Cash. Approximate Retail Value (ARV) $250.00.

All prizes are stated in US dollars.

The total Approximate Retail Value (ARV) of all prizes: $3,500.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are a public sector employee (government and education), your prize will be awarded directly to your public sector organization as a donation, and subject to receipt of a gift letter signed by your agency/institution’s ethics officer, attorney, or designated executive/officer responsible for your organization’s gifts/ethics policy. We will only award one prize per person. No more than the stated number of prizes will be awarded. No substitution, transfer, or assignment of prize permitted, except that Microsoft reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value in the event the offered prize is unavailable. Prizes are awarded “AS IS” with no warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to, the implied warranties or merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement. Prize winners may be required to complete and return prize claim and / or tax forms (“Forms”) within the deadline stated in the winner notification. Taxes on the prize, if any, are the sole responsibility of the winner, who is advised to seek independent counsel regarding the tax implications of accepting a prize. By accepting a prize, you agree that Microsoft may use your entry, name, image and hometown online and in print, or in any other media, in connection with this Contest without payment or compensation to you, except where prohibited by law.

ODDS

The odds of winning are based on the number and quality of eligible entries received.

GENERAL CONDITIONS AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY

To the extent allowed by law, by entering you agree to release and hold harmless Microsoft and its respective parents, partners, subsidiaries, affiliates, employees, and agents from any and all liability or any injury, loss, or damage of any kind arising in connection with this Contest or any prize won. All local laws apply. The decisions of Microsoft are final and binding. We reserve the right to cancel, change, or suspend this Contest for any reason, including cheating, technology failure, catastrophe, war, or any other unforeseen or unexpected event that affects the integrity of this Contest, whether human or mechanical. If the integrity of the Contest cannot be restored, we may select winners from among all eligible entries received before we had to cancel, change or suspend the Contest. If you attempt or we have strong reason to believe that you have compromised the integrity or the legitimate operation of this Contest by cheating, hacking, creating a bot or other automated program, or by committing fraud in any way, we may seek damages from you to the full extent of the law and you may be banned from participation in future Microsoft promotions.

GOVERNING LAW

This Contest will be governed by the laws of the State of Washington, and you consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Washington for any disputes arising out of this Contest.

WINNERS LIST

Send an email to aec_challenge@microsoft.com with the subject line “ICASSP 2021 AEC (see details on overview) winners” within 30 days of Jan 22, 2021 to receive a list of winners that received a prize worth $25.00 or more.

PRIVACY

At Microsoft, we are committed to protecting your privacy. Microsoft uses the information you provide on this form to notify you of important information about our products, upgrades and enhancements, and to send you information about other Microsoft products and services. Microsoft will not share the information you provide with third parties without your permission except where necessary to complete the services or transactions you have requested, or as required by law. Microsoft is committed to protecting the security of your personal information. We use a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect your personal information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. Your personal information is never shared outside the company without your permission, except under conditions explained above.

If you believe that Microsoft has not adhered to this statement, please contact Microsoft by sending an email to privrc@microsoft.com or postal mail to Microsoft Privacy Response Center, Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052

Timeline

Program timeline

This challenge is to benchmark the performance of real-time algorithms with a real (not simulated) test set. Participants will evaluate their acoustic echo canceller on a test set and submit the results (audio clips) for evaluation. The requirements for each acoustic echo canceller used for submission are:

  • September 8, 2020: Release of the datasets
  • October 2, 2020: Blind test set released to participants
  • October 9, 2020: Deadline for participants to submit their results for objective and P.808 subjective evaluation on the blind test set
  • October 16, 2020: Organizers will notify the participants about the results
  • October 21, 2020: Regular paper submission deadline for ICASSP 2021
  • January 22, 2021: Paper acceptance/rejection notification
  • January 25, 2021: Notification of the winners with winner instructions, including a prize claim deadline

Organizers

Organizers

  • Ross Cutler, Microsoft, USA
  • Ando Saabas, Microsoft, Estonia
  • Tanel Pärnamaa, Microsoft, Estonia
  • Kusha Sridhar, University of Texas at Dallas, USA
  • Robert Aichner, Microsoft, USA
  • Sebastian Braun, Microsoft Research, Germany
  • Hannes Gamper, Microsoft Research, USA
  • Sriram Srinivasan, Microsoft, USA

Results

Results

Overall | Clean | Noisy | Anova

Id Team ST NE MOS ST FE Echo
DMOS
DT Echo DMOS DT Other MOS Overall CI
21 Amazon 3.85 4.19 4.34 4.07 4.11 0.01
8 SoundConnect 3.84 4.19 4.26 3.71 4.00 0.02
9 Baidu 3.76 4.20 4.30 3.74 4.00 0.02
13 University of Chinese Academy of
Sciences
3.78 4.19 4.26 3.72 3.99 0.02
24 Carl von Ossietzky University
Oldenburg
3.83 4.14 4.17 3.77 3.98 0.02
23 Northwestern Polytechnical
University
3.54 4.17 4.30 3.80 3.95 0.02
10 Chinese Academy of Science 3.75 3.95 3.99 3.53 3.80 0.02
11 Bytedance 3.65 4.18 4.19 3.02 3.76 0.02
19 Samsung R&D Institute Poland 3.59 4.12 4.08 3.24 3.76 0.02
7 Kuaishou 3.73 4.06 4.18 2.97 3.73 0.02
16 proactivaudio GmbH 3.74 3.60 4.01 3.54 3.72 0.02
Baseline 3.79 3.84 3.84 3.28 3.68 0.02
20 Universitat Politècnica de
València
3.51 3.79 3.94 3.06 3.57 0.02
18 Friedrich-Alexander-University
Erlangen-Nürnberg
3.50 3.43 3.46 3.50 3.48 0.02
15 Technion 3.52 3.34 3.62 3.35 3.46 0.02
22 Institute of Automation, Chinese
Academy of Sciences
3.49 2.91 4.11 3.22 3.43 0.02
12 RWTH Aachen University 3.47 3.52 3.90 2.82 3.43 0.02
17 Jadavpur University 1.90 2.64 3.46 1.84 2.46 0.02

Clean results

Id Team ST NE MOS ST FE Echo DMOS DT Echo DMOS DT Other MOS Overall CI
21 Amazon 3.96 4.49 4.49 4.09 4.26 0.02
9 Baidu 3.93 4.50 4.47 3.76 4.16 0.02
24 Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg 3.98 4.46 4.34 3.86 4.16 0.02
8 SoundConnect 3.97 4.50 4.44 3.71 4.15 0.02
13 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences 3.91 4.52 4.38 3.72 4.13 0.02
23 Northwestern Polytechnical University 3.63 4.46 4.45 3.80 4.08 0.02
10 Chinese Academy of Science 3.86 4.29 4.22 3.54 3.98 0.02
11 Bytedance 3.90 4.48 4.37 3.03 3.94 0.02
19 Samsung R&D Institute Poland 3.74 4.42 4.24 3.26 3.91 0.02
7 Kuaishou 3.92 4.35 4.35 2.93 3.89 0.02
Baseline 3.99 4.09 3.89 3.33 3.82 0.02
16 proactivaudio GmbH 3.92 3.70 4.10 3.54 3.81 0.02
20 Universitat Politècnica de València 3.66 4.05 4.08 3.09 3.72 0.02
18 Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg 3.58 3.57 3.54 3.57 3.56 0.02
15 Technion 3.65 3.46 3.68 3.35 3.54 0.02
12 RWTH Aachen University 3.62 3.70 3.97 2.82 3.53 0.02
22 Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences 3.66 2.91 4.25 3.25 3.52 0.02
17 Jadavpur University 1.67 2.61 3.41 1.85 2.38 0.03

Noisy results

Id Team ST NE MOS ST FE Echo DMOS DT Echo DMOS DT Other MOS Overall CI
21 Amazon 3.74 3.88 4.20 4.04 3.97 0.02
8 SoundConnect 3.70 3.89 4.09 3.72 3.85 0.02
13 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences 3.65 3.86 4.14 3.73 3.85 0.02
9 Baidu 3.58 3.90 4.12 3.72 3.83 0.02
23 Northwestern Polytechnical University 3.46 3.89 4.14 3.80 3.82 0.02
24 Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg 3.68 3.83 4.00 3.68 3.80 0.02
10 Chinese Academy of Science 3.63 3.61 3.76 3.51 3.63 0.02
16 proactivaudio GmbH 3.56 3.49 3.91 3.54 3.63 0.02
19 Samsung R&D Institute Poland 3.45 3.82 3.93 3.22 3.60 0.02
11 Bytedance 3.41 3.88 4.02 3.02 3.58 0.02
7 Kuaishou 3.54 3.77 4.02 3.01 3.58 0.02
Baseline 3.58 3.58 3.78 3.23 3.54 0.02
20 Universitat Politècnica de València 3.36 3.52 3.81 3.02 3.43 0.02
18 Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg 3.43 3.30 3.38 3.44 3.39 0.02
15 Technion 3.39 3.21 3.56 3.34 3.38 0.03
22 Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences 3.31 2.92 3.97 3.19 3.35 0.02
12 RWTH Aachen University 3.33 3.34 3.84 2.81 3.33 0.02
17 Jadavpur University 2.14 2.67 3.52 1.83 2.54 0.03

Anova results

Team Id 21 8 9 13
21 1.00
8 0.00 1.00
9 0.00 0.78 1.00
13 0.00 0.55 0.74 1.00
24 0.00 0.24 0.35 0.56

Legend

ST NE MOS: P.808 MOS of nearend singletalk scenario
ST FE Echo MOS: P.831 Echo DMOS for farend singletalk
DT Echo DMOS: P.831 Echo DMOS for doubletalk scenario
DT Other DMOS: P.831 other degradations DMOS of doubletalk scenario