2016 will mark the occasion of the 17th annual conference of the International Speech Communication Association (ISCA), and we’re proud to hold it in San Francisco! The Bay Area has long been an international focal point for technology development, with Silicon Valley and its two great universities “in the neighborhood.” As speech processing becomes a part of the computing mainstream, it has an even more central role in developments at the Bay Area’s many related companies, large and small.
But even as work on speech processing becomes increasingly focused on applications, our community’s need to understand the nature of speech increases. Why, after decades of work, are aspects of machine speech processing so difficult, and in some circumstances, so fragile? This question, along with our community’s deep interest in understanding human communication, leads us to push for answers to more basic questions.
For these reasons, we have chosen the theme, “Understanding speech processing in humans and machines” for this conference. While we are always interested in the latest ways to use machine learning and signal processing to implement speech tasks, we also want to understand how speech is processed by humans, who have amazing abilities to communicate successfully under a wide range of conditions.
Interspeech 2016 will be held in the primary conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The hotel is steps from the San Francisco Bay, and a short walk (or cable car ride) from many restaurants, ranging from simple fare to some of the best in the City (a city that the magazine “Bon Appetit” referred to as the “best food city in the country now”). Starting from the international terminal at San Francisco Airport, you can reach the hotel directly using the local railway system, BART (get off at the Embarcadero station). From the hotel, it is a short walk to transportation that can take you many other places in the area; for instance, from the ferry terminal near the hotel you can take a boat to nearby beautiful Marin County, and you can take BART to the downtown Berkeley station, which is just downhill from the campus of the University of California at Berkeley (and a block from ICSI). For those with some time to spend in the area, you’ll also find deserts, forests, mountains, and ocean within a few hours’ drive.
I want to close this brief welcome by thanking the entire organizing committee for their long efforts to create an event that we hope will be memorable for you. But I particularly want to thank the Technical Chairs, Shri and Panos of the University of Southern California, who not only took on the toughest jobs in one of the events, but who through their own network of past and current colleagues, provided many of the members of the organizing committee. I also very much want to thank Kate Porter and her team and Conference Solutions, without whom this event would not have been possible – trying to stage an multi-day event for 1000+ people using only researchers to pull it together would be almost as big a challenge as solving robust speech recognition! And finally, I want to thank the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and its director, Deborah Crawford (as well as its former director, Roberto Pieraccini), for its support over the years that it took to pull this together.
Welcome to California, to San Francisco, and to our conference! We all hope that you learn a lot and have a great experience as well.