Shape and Material from Sound

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017)

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Zhoutong Zhang, Qiujia Li, Zhengjia Huang, Jiajun Wu, Josh Tenenbaum, Bill Freeman


Hearing an object falling onto the ground, humans can recover rich information including its rough shape, material, and falling height. In this paper, we build machines to approximate such competency. We first mimic human knowledge of the physical world by building an efficient, physics-based simulation engine. Then, we present an analysis-by-synthesis approach to infer properties of the falling object. We further accelerate the process by learning a mapping from a sound wave to object properties, and using the predicted values to initialize the inference. This mapping can be viewed as an approximation of human commonsense learned from past experience. Our model performs well on both synthetic audio clips and real recordings without requiring any annotated data. We conduct behavior studies to compare human responses with ours on estimating object shape, material, and falling height from sound. Our model achieves near-human performance.