Connecting the Dots between Audio and Text without Parallel Data through Visual Knowledge Transfer

Machines that can represent and describe environmental soundscapes have practical potential, e.g., for audio tagging and captioning systems. Prevailing learning paradigms have been relying on parallel audio-text data, which is, however, scarcely available on the web. We propose VIP-ANT that induces \textbf{A}udio-\textbf{T}ext alignment without using any parallel audio-text data. Our key idea is to share the image modality between bi-modal image-text representations and bi-modal image-audio representations; the image modality functions as a pivot and connects audio and text in a tri-modal embedding space implicitly. In a difficult zero-shot setting with no paired audio-text data, our model demonstrates state-of-the-art zero-shot performance on the ESC50 and US8K audio classification tasks, and even surpasses the supervised state of the art for Clotho caption retrieval (with audio queries) by 2.2\% R@1. We further investigate cases of minimal audio-text supervision, finding that, e.g., just a few hundred supervised audio-text pairs increase the zero-shot audio classification accuracy by 8\% on US8K. However, to match human parity on some zero-shot tasks, our empirical scaling experiments suggest that we would need about $2^{21} \approx 2M$ supervised audio-caption pairs. Our work opens up new avenues for learning audio-text connections with little to no parallel audio-text data.

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