Closed-loop sound source localization in neuromorphic systems

Thorben Schoepe*, Daniel Gutierrez-Galan, Juan Pedro Dominguez-Morales, Hugh Greatorex, Angel Jimenez-Fernandez, Alejandro Linares-Barranco, Elisabetta Chicca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Sound source localization (SSL) is used in various applications such as industrial noise-control, speech detection in mobile phones, speech enhancement in hearing aids and many more. Newest video conferencing setups use SSL. The position of a speaker is detected from the difference in the audio waves received by a microphone array. After detection the camera focuses onto the location of the speaker. The human brain is also able to detect the location of a speaker from auditory signals. It uses, among other cues, the difference in amplitude and arrival time of the sound wave at the two ears, called interaural level and time difference. However, the substrate and computational primitives of our brain are different from classical digital computing. Due to its low power consumption of around 20 W and its performance in real time the human brain has become a great source of inspiration for emerging technologies. One of these technologies is neuromorphic hardware which implements the fundamental principles of brain computing identified until today using complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor technologies and new devices. In this work we propose the first neuromorphic closed-loop robotic system that uses the interaural time difference for SSL in real time. Our system can successfully locate sound sources such as human speech. In a closed-loop experiment, the robotic platform turned immediately into the direction of the sound source with a turning velocity linearly proportional to the angle difference between sound source and binaural microphones. After this initial turn, the robotic platform remains at the direction of the sound source. Even though the system only uses very few resources of the available hardware, consumes around 1 W, and was only tuned by hand, meaning it does not contain any learning at all, it already reaches performances comparable to other neuromorphic approaches. The SSL system presented in this article brings us one step closer towards neuromorphic event-based systems for robotics and embodied computing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 024009
Number of pages19
JournalNeuromorphic computing and engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12-Jun-2023


  • event-based sensing
  • neuromorphic systems
  • sound source localization
  • interaural time difference
  • spiking neural networks

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