BBC has announced it has launched the BBC Audio Research Parnership, which is a new initiative that brings together top UK audio experts for a five-year research collaboration.

The initiative will be used by BBC Research & Development (R & D) to work collaboratively with leading universities in the field of audio research and innovation.

BBC’s primary academic partners will be University of Salford for acoustics research and University of Surrey for audio-visual research. And BBC will also work closely with the universities of Southampton, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and York, each being world-leaders in audio research.

We reported last week on BBC’s Wimbledon experiment, whereby it developed a special audio player that allowed users to control the sound balance, choosing to listen more to the crowd and the players, or the commentary.

And following a similar experiment in 2010 for the BBC Proms, the BBC permanently implemented an extra-high quality audio stream for BBC Radio 3, known as ‘HD Sound‘.

So this new research partnership could lead to similar innovations launching over the next five years, with the likes of HD sound and user-controlled audio functionality rolled-out across BBC’s channels.

Tim Davie, Director of Audio & Music at BBC says:

“This collaboration is another step towards more innovation in radio. It will deliver significant benefits to the industry and listeners.”

From a technical perspective, the audio centre will focus on four core areas of research initially: Source separation (independent component analysis for audio un-mixing), audio semantics (automated metadata generation), spatial audio (including ambisonics and periphony) and room acoustics (including optimising rooms for spatial audio both at the broadcaster and consumer end).

And from an academic perspective, the main focus will be on speech recognition (for applications including archives and accessibility) and audio coding (low latency and IP delivery).

Professor Adrian Hilton, head of the University of Surrey’s Visual Media Research Group, has collaborated with the BBC on various projects over the past decade introducing novel technologies for both audio and visual projection. He said:

“The new BBC Partnership will establish a strategic relationship for audio-visual research at Surrey. It is an exciting time and we hope that our collaboration will continue to flourish and provide significant benefits to those who use watch and listen to the BBC’s broadcasts across a wide spectrum of programmes.”