Inaugural Lecture of Patrick Huen Wing Ming Professorship of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management by Professor Helen Meng on “Advancing Technological Equity in Speech and Language Technologies”


7 Dec 2021


4:00 pm


Cho Yiu Hall, G/F, University Administration Building


Professor Helen Meng

Biography of Speaker:

Professor Helen Meng is Patrick Huen Wing Ming Professor of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). She is a recognized scholar for her distinctive contributions to multilingual, multimodal human-computer interaction and language learning technologies. She established the CUHK Stanley Ho Big Data Decision Analytics Research Centre in 2013 and serves as its Founding Director. In 2019, her interdisciplinary research team was awarded the first Theme-based Research Scheme Project in Artificial Intelligence from the HKSAR Government’s Research Grants Council. She helped establish the Centre for Perceptual and Interactive Intelligence (CPII) Limited in 2020 – this is a CUHK-led InnoCentre on AI, located in the Hong Kong Science Park. She is Co-Principal Investigator and Chair of Curriculum Development of the CUHK-JC AI4Future Project to develop the first comprehensive pre-tertiary AI education curriculum in Hong Kong. She has delivered numerous invited talks at flagship conferences, including Plenary Speaker of IEEE ICASSP 2021, Keynote Speaker of ACL 2021 and Plenary Speaker of INTERSPEECH 2018. Professor Meng was elected Fellow of the IEEE in 2013, Fellow of the International Speech Communication Association (one of 81 fellows worldwide) in 2016; Fellow of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) and Fellow of the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS). She has received awards including the SciTech Challenge 2021 Championship, 2017 Outstanding Women Professional Award (one of 20 awardees since 1999), 2016 Microsoft Research Outstanding Collaborator Award (one of 32 academics worldwide), 2016 IBM Faculty Award, 2015 ISCA Distinguished Lecturer, 2015 HKCS Inaugural Outstanding ICT Women Professional Award, 2012 Asia-Pacific Signal and Information Processing Association (APSIPA) Inaugural Distinguished Lecturer, 2009 Ministry of Education Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Award in Technological Advancements, 2008 Peng Cheng Scholar of the Tsinghua Graduate School of Shenzhen (now Tsinghua Shenzhen International Graduate School), CUHK Faculty of Engineering Exemplary Teaching Award, Young Researcher Award, Service Award, and various best paper awards.

Professor Meng received all her degrees from MIT. She joined CUHK in 1998 as the first female faculty member of the Department of Systems Engineering & Engineering Management.  In addition to the establishments mentioned above, she established the Human-Computer Communications Laboratory in her department in 1999. She founded the Microsoft-CUHK Joint Laboratory for Human-Centric Computing and Interface Technologies in 2005 and serves as Director. This laboratory has been recognized as a Ministry of Education (MoE) of China Key Laboratory since 2008. In 2006, she founded the Tsinghua-CUHK Joint Research Center for Media Sciences, Technologies and Systems. In 2007, she helped establish the Laboratory for Ambient Intelligence and Multimodal Systems in the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Integration Technology, through its joint initiative with CUHK. In 2012/2013, she served as member of CUHK Shenzhen Academic Planning Subcommittee and became an early contributor towards curriculum design for CUHK-Shenzhen, and has been their Adjunct Professor ever since. Professor Meng served as Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Engineering between 2006 and 2010, the first female Department Chairman of the Faculty between 2012 and 2018.

Professor Meng devotes much effort towards professional services internationally and regionally. She was elected Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s (SPS) Transaction on Audio, Speech and Language Processing (often regarded as the most prestigious journal in the field). She is serving/has served in various positions, including: elected member of the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s Board of Governors, Nominations and Appointments Committee and Awards Board; International Speech Communication Association (ISCA) Board and its International Advisory Council.  She has been a member of the review panels of the Swedish Research Council European Research Infrastructure Initiative, and the National Centres of Competence in Research of the Swiss National Science Foundation. She was Technical Chair of ISCA’s flagship conference, INTERSPEECH, in 2014 and General Chair of the first online INTERSPEECH conference in 2020. She received the 2019 IEEE Leo L. Beranek Meritorious Service Award for “exemplary service to and leadership in the Signal Processing Society”.

Regionally, she is an elected Standing Committee Member of the China Computer Federation’s Speech, Dialog and Audio Expert Group, appointed member of the HKSAR Government’s Research Grants Council and Chairman of its Assessment Panel for Competitive Research Funding Schemes for the Local Self-financing Degree Sector, and member of the Digital Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation. She is also an invited member of the AI for Children Working Group under the AI4SDGs (AI for Sustainable Development Goals) Cooperation Network. She is a former member of the HKSAR Government’s Steering Committee on eHealth Record Sharing, Vocational Training Council’s Innovation and Technology Training Board, Hong Kong/Guangdong ICT Expert Committee and Coordinator of the Working Group on Big Data Research and Applications, Council of the Open University of Hong Kong (now Hong Kong Metropolitan University), Hong Kong Productivity Council, HKSAR Government’s Digital 21 Strategy Advisory Committee, and Chairlady of the Working Party of the Manpower Survey of the Information Technology Sector. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Dr. Stanley Ho Medical Development Foundation.


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Synopsis of Lecture:

Accelerating advances in AI and deep neural networks have powered the proliferation of speech and language technologies in applications such as virtual assistants, smart speakers, reading machines, etc. The technologies have performed impressively well, achieving human parity in speech recognition accuracies and speech synthesis naturalness. As these technologies continue to permeate our daily lives, they need to support diverse users and usage contexts with inputs that deviate from the mainstream. Examples include non-native speakers, code-switching, speech carrying myriad emotions and styles, and speakers with impairments and disorders. Under such contexts, existing technologies often suffer performance degradations and fail to fulfil the needs of the users. The crux of the problem lies in data scarcity and data sparsity, which are exacerbated by high data variability.

This talk presents an overview of some of the approaches we have used to address the challenges of data shortage, positioned at various stages along the processing pipeline. They include: data augmentation based on speech signal perturbations, use of pre-trained representations, learning speech representation disentanglement, knowledge distillation architectures, meta-learned model re-initialization, as well as adversarially trained models. The effectiveness of these approaches are demonstrated through a variety of applications, including accented speech recognition, dysarthric speech recognition, code-switched speech synthesis, disordered speech reconstruction, one-shot voice conversion and exemplar-based emotive speech synthesis. These efforts strive to develop speech and language technologies that can gracefully adapt and accommodate a diversity of user needs and usage contexts, in order to achieve technological equity in our society.