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Blizzard Challenge 2013 Rules

From SynSIG




  • A registration fee of 500GBP (approx 800USD) is payable by all participants to offset the costs of running the challenge, including paying local assistants and listeners. The fee must be paid by the end of April 2013. You can pay this fee using Edinburgh University's online payments system: After doing this, please also email to notify us that you have paid. If you are genuinely unable to use the online payments system, please contact for assistance with other methods of payment. However, we strongly prefer the epay system because it reduces the costs and admin work for us. If you must pay by any other method, please contact us in plenty of time (several weeks before the payment deadline); an additional charge of 100GBP will be made for any payments not made using the epay system.


  • Each participant should try to recruit at least ten volunteer listeners for the each of the evaluation tests. Native speakers are preferable, where possible. The organisers would also appreciate assistance in advertising the Challenge as widely as possible (e.g., to your students or colleagues).


All participants will have access to the following materials (subject to signing the license, in the case of the English data):

  • English: Audiobook data kindly provided by The Voice Factory, from a single female speaker, provided as approximately 300 hours of chapter-sized mp3 files, plus approximately 19 hours of non-compressed wav files. The wav files have been segmented into sentences and aligned with the text by Lessac Technologies, Inc.
  • Indian languages: About 1 hour of speech data in each of four Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali, Kannada and Tamil) from the IIIT-H INDIC corpus, recorded by native non-professional speakers in quiet office environments. Text is provided in UTF-8 format. No other information, such as segment labels, is provided.


This year there are two parts to the Blizzard Challenge: the main English audiobook tasks, and pilot tasks on Indian language data. The Indian data will then be used as the main task in 2014 and 2015 (and the plan is to make additional data in further languages available).

  • It is not permissible for a single participant to submit multiple entries to any task, because the listening test will become unmanageable. This rule may be relaxed in the event of a small number of participants.
  • Participants involved in joint projects or consortia who wish to submit multiple systems (e.g., an individual entry and a joint system) should contact the organisers in advance to agree this. We will try to accommodate all reasonable requests, provided the listening test remains manageable.
  • It is strongly encouraged to participate in all tasks and not to "cherry pick".
  • For all tasks, synthetic speech may be submitted at any sampling rate (but always at 16 bits per sample). Waveforms will not be downsampled for the listening test
  • English tasks
    • Task 2013-EH1 -- build a voice from the provided unsegmented audio, using any or all of the mp3 and original wav format data as you choose; text is not provided, so must be obtained by you from the web (e.g., Project Gutenberg) and aligned with the audio. You may not use any of the provided segmented audio for this task. Test material will be provided as text only.
    • Task 2013-EH2 -- build a voice from any or all of the provided segmented audio for the books Black Beauty and Mansfield Park (note that these files are derived from original wav files and have not been mp3 coded then decoded); the accompanying aligned text and other information may be used, or text may be obtained from the web. You may optionally use the original chapter-sized waveforms provided for these two books, and segment them yourself. Test material will be provided as text only.
  • Indian Language tasks (pilot phase for the 2014 challenge) -- Build one voice in each language from the provided speech data (wav/ directory) and the corresponding text in UTF-8 format (etc/ Any other information that may be included in the distributions, such as segment labels, phone set and Roman transliteration available from the sample Festvox voice builds (e.g., the .lab, .sl and .slehmm files) is not officially provided or endorsed as a part of this challenge, although may be used by participants if they wish. In all cases test material will be provided as UTF-8 text only (in a similar format to etc/ The subtasks are numbered as follows:
    • 2013-IH1.1 Hindi
    • 2013-IH1.2 Bengali
    • 2013-IH1.3 Kannada
    • 2013-IH1.4 Tamil


  • "External data" is defined as data, of any type, that is not part of the provided database.
  • You are allowed to use external data in any way you wish, subject to any exclusions given in these rules
  • Use of external data is entirely optional and is not compulsory
  • You must use the provided audio files
  • You must not use any additional speech data from the same speakers
  • You may exclude any parts of the provided databases if you wish.
  • Use of any provided segmentations, transcriptions or labels is optional.
  • If you are in any doubt about how to apply these rules, please contact the organizers immediately.


  • The exact nature of the test set will not be revealed in advance, but is likely to include both sentence, paragraph and possibly longer texts from a similar domain to the provided corpus, as well as texts from other domains. Formal listening tests will be conducted to evaluate the synthetic speech submitted.


  • Any examples that you submit for evaluation will be retained by the Blizzard organisers for future use.
  • You must include in your submission of the test sentences a statement of whether you give the organisers permission to publically distribute your waveforms and the corresponding listening test results in anonymised form. In the past, all participants have agreed to this and we strongly encourage you to give this consent.


  • The Blizzard organisers will conduct a listening test design which will probably include the standard elements used in previous years (naturalness, speaker similarity, intelligibility) and will be extended to include additional tests specific to the audiobook reading task, including the synthesis of multi-sentence paragraphs.


  • Each participant will be expected to submit a six-page paper describing their entry for review.
  • One of the authors of each accepted paper should present it at the Blizzard 2013 Workshop
  • In addition, each participant will be expected to complete a form giving the general technical specification of their system, to facilitate easy cross-system comparisons (e.g. is it unit selection? does it predict prosody? etc. etc)


  • This is a challenge, which is designed to answer scientific questions, and not a competition. Therefore, we rely on your honesty in preparing your entry.

SynSIG is a Special Interest Group of ISCA, the International Speech Communication Association.

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