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History of the International Workshop on Acoustic Signal Enhancement

The idea of an international workshop on acoustic echo control was born after the chairman of an international conference decided that this topic would not merit a session. Fortunately, the German Bundespost - now German Telekom - accepted the idea and so the first International Workshop on Acoustic Echo Control sponsored by the Bundespost and organized by colleagues from their Research Institute could be held in Berlin (Germany) in September 1989.

Originally, this workshop was planned as a single event. The participants, however, felt that further workshops should follow in two years intervals. The idea was that the workshops should take place at the Research Institutes of the European PTTs. Consequently the 1991 and 1993 workshops were organized by CSELT at L'Aquila (Italy) and by CNET at Plestin les Greves (France). Following the constantly growing interest in the topic not just in PTT Laboratories but also at universities and communication companies in and outside of Europe the workshop moved to Røros (Norway, 1995), London (Great Brittain, 1997), Pocono Manor (Pensylvania, USA,1999), Darmstadt (Germany, 2001), Kyoto (Japan, 2003), Eindhoven (The Netherlands, 2005), Paris (France, 2006) and to Seattle (Washington, USA, 2008).

The workshop was originally named the International Workshop on Acoustic Echo Control although noise reduction was already a topic at the first workshop. The name was extended to Echo and Noise Control before the workshop at Røros in 1995. The topics of the workshop are focussed around providing means for comfortable hands-free communication between people. Several times it was discussed whether the scope of the workshop should be broadened to include more general topics of speech signal processing like, for example, speech recognition. The majority of the members in the scientific committee, however, felt that this step would address groups of researchers that use completely different approaches and tools and, therefore, the homogeneity of the attendees that is a distinctive characteristic of this workshop would be lost.

There is another noteworthy feature of this workshop: It is not underpinned by any formal organization. The scientific committee loosely formed over the years and there were always offers to arrange for the next workshop. Every time the workshop turned out to be perfectly organised. The number of participants that originally was about fifty grew to one hundred or so. There is a remarkable group of participants that attend the workshop regularly including quite a few participating at all the workshops from the very beginning.

The scientific and the industrial interest in acoustic echo and noise control has grown tremendously since the first workshop. At that time - in 1989 - the hardware for modelling an electroacoustic system in an economically feasible way was not yet available. Also, adequate models and algorithms still had to be investigated. Contributions at the following workshops contributed considerable to this effort. As far as hardware is concerned, the situation has changed drastically. Today highly sophisticated procedures can be tested in real time on ordinary PCs. Users, however, always ask for better products. Therefore, there will be intensive research certainly generating sufficient material for future workshops.

In 2010, the technical committee of the workshop agreed to change the name from the International Workshop on Acoustic Echo and Noise Control to the International Workshop on Acoustic Signal Enhancement. This change was implemented to reflect better the evolving scope of the workshop as the topics broaden and strengthen.

Eberhard Hänsler, June 2008, (update Patrick Naylor 2010).