An ontological framework for retrieving environmental sounds using semantics and acoustic content

Gordon Wichern, Brandon Mechtley, Alex Fink, Harvey Thornburg, Andreas Spanias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Organizing a database of user-contributed environmental sound recordings allows sound files to be linked not only by the semantic tags and labels applied to them, but also to other sounds with similar acoustic characteristics. Of paramount importance in navigating these databases are the problems of retrieving similar sounds using text- or sound-based queries, and automatically annotating unlabeled sounds. We propose an integrated system, which can be used for text-based retrieval of unlabeled audio, content-based query-by-example, and automatic annotation of unlabeled sound files. To this end, we introduce an ontological framework where sounds are connected to each other based on the similarity between acoustic features specifically adapted to environmental sounds, while semantic tags and sounds are connected through link weights that are optimized based on user-provided tags. Furthermore, tags are linked to each other through a measure of semantic similarity, which allows for efficient incorporation of out-of-vocabulary tags, that is, tags that do not yet exist in the database. Results on two freely available databases of environmental sounds contributed and labeled by nonexpert users demonstrate effective recall, precision, and average precision scores for both the text-based retrieval and annotation tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number192363
JournalEurasip Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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