A team of researchers from Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island has developed a new computer-based tool to perform finely tuned acoustic analyses of babies’ cries. The team hopes their baby cry analyzer will lead to new ways for researchers and clinicians to use cry in identifying children with neurological problems or developmental disorders.
The system operates in two phases. During the first phase, the analyzer separates recorded cries into 12.5-millisecond frames. Each frame is analyzed for several parameters, including frequency characteristics, voicing, and acoustic volume. The second phase uses data from the first to give a broader view of the cry and reduces the number of parameters to those that are most useful. The frames are put back together and characterized either as an utterance — a single “wah” — or silence, the pause between utterances. Longer utterances are separated from shorter ones and the time between utterances is recorded. Pitch, including the contour of pitch over time, and other variables can then be averaged across each utterance.
In the end, the system evaluates for 80 different parameters, each of which could hold clues about a baby’s health.
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