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Interactive and personalised podcasting with AI-driven audio production tools


Department of Music

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Dr Tom Collins , Dr C Pike No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

There has been a considerable growth in the consumption and production of podcasts in recent years. The premise of this project is that there exist exciting possibilities for innovative user experiences at the intersection of interactive and personalised narratives [3, 5], AI audio technologies, and the podcast form.

In terms of AI audio technologies, there have been recent step changes in domains such as music information retrieval [e.g., 2] and sound effect generation [e.g., 1]. Recent research on binaural sound reproduction has established that the perceived quality of binaural sound can be improved for audiences without need for personalisation or head-tracking [4].

Through interviews, software development, and workshops with creative producers hosted at the BBC, this PhD project will explore use cases and creative affordances of producing interactive and responsive narratives in podcast form, and how advances in AI audio technologies can play a role. The intended outcomes comprise technological and perceptual research papers, and a pilot for BBC Taster, comprising interactive and responsive narratives that can be experienced by BBC ilsteners.

This project is part of the on-going relationship between the University of York Department of Music and BBC R&D, through the XR Stories project. We recognise the many benefits of a diverse community and are committed to ensuring an inclusive place to work, live, and study. We particularly encourage applications from women and members of minority groups, who are underrepresented in this field and across the Department as a whole.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Tom Collins and study in the Department of Music’s Music Computing and Psychology Lab at the University of York, spending short periods of time with the XR Stories team in York, and with Dr Chris Pike (Lead R&D Engineer - Audio) and Cathy Robinson (Technical Producer for Immersive Technology) at BBC R&D at MediaCityUK. Up to 6 months of this 3.5 year PhD will be spent on placement with BBC R&D as a single block of time, or in shorter, more focused periods, 3 months at a time.

The project will consider both research and development, as well as practice-based approaches, and user studies with colleagues from the BBC. The successful candidate should have excellent interpersonal and programming skills, and an appreciation of how these combine in software engineering and user-centred software development. They should have a strong interest in one or more of sound, music, storytelling, and immersive audio technology. This project is highly multidisciplinary in its nature and we welcome candidates from a broad range of core research backgrounds and interests, extending from computer science and machine learning to audio signal processing, user experience design, human-computer interaction, as well as relevant creative practice.

Candidates must have (or expect to obtain) a minimum of a UK upper second-class honours degree (2.1) or equivalent in a related subject, and ideally also have a related Master’s degree. Prior research or industry experience would also be an advantage.

This PhD is due to start 1st November 2020.

How to apply:
Candidates must apply via the University’s online application system at https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/courses/apply?course=DRPMUSSMUS3&level=postgraduate
Please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process. Please specify in your PhD application that you would like to be considered for this studentship.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover the tuition fee at the home/EU rate (£4,407 in 2020/21) and a stipend at the standard research council rate for a period of up to 3.5 years (£15,285 in 2020/21). A bursary will be made available to support the 6-month placement. The stipend will also be “topped up” by an additional £2,000 per in years 1-3 supported by the overall financial contribution by BBC R&D. International (non-EU) candidates are welcome to apply but will be required to pay the difference between the UK/EU and international tuition fee rates, approx. £17,000 per year for the programme duration.

References

1. P. Bahadoran, A. Benito, T. Vassallo, J. Reiss. (2018). FXive: A web platform for procedural sound synthesis, Audio Engineering Society Convention 144.
2. A. Défossez, N. Usunier, L. Bottou, F. Bach. (2019). Music source separation in the waveform domain. hal-02379796
3. J. Konczal. (2008). Identifying, knowing and retaining your customers: The "prosumer". Customer Interaction Solutions 26(11): 22-23.
4. C. Pike. (2019). Evaluating the perceived quality of binaural technology. PhD thesis, University of York.
5. I. Forrester (2013-20). Perceptive radio. https://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/perceptive-radio
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