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A Reinforcement Learning Approach to Speech Coding


Speech coding is an essential technology for digital cellular communications, voice over IP, and video conferencing systems. For more than 25 years, the main approach to speech coding for these applications has been block-based analysis-by-synthesis linear predictive coding. An alternative approach that has been less successful is sample-by-sample tree coding of speech. We reformulate this latter approach as a multistage reinforcement learning problem with L step lookahead that incorporates exploration and exploitation to adapt model parameters and to control the speech analysis/synthesis process on a sample-by-sample basis. The minimization of the spectrally shaped reconstruction error to finite depth manages complexity and serves as an effective stand in for the overall subjective evaluation of reconstructed speech quality and intelligibility. Different control policies that attempt to persistently excite the system states and that encourage exploration are studied and evaluated. The resulting methods produce reconstructed speech quality competitive with the most popular speech codec utilized today. This new reinforcement learning formulation provides new insights and opens up new directions for system design and performance improvement.

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