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Coincidence, Categorization, and Consolidation: Learning to Recognize Sounds with Minimal Supervision


Humans do not acquire perceptual abilities like we train machines. While machine learning algorithms typically operate on large collections of randomly-chosen, explicitly-labeled examples, human acquisition relies far greater on multimodal unsupervised learning (as infants) and active learning (as children). With this motivation, we present a learning framework for sound representation and recognition that combines (i) a self-supervised objective based on a general notion of unimodal and cross-modal coincidence, (ii) a novel clustering objective that reflects our need to impose categorical structure on our experiences, and (iii) a cluster-based active learning procedure that solicits targeted weak supervision to consolidate hypothesized categories into relevant semantic classes. By jointly training a single sound embedding/clustering/classification network according to these criteria, we achieve a new state-of-the-art unsupervised audio representation and demonstrate up to 20-fold reduction in labels required to reach a desired classification performance.