Good Thinking

Japanese team invents device that silences the overly-wordy

Japanese team invents device t...
A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking
A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking
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Front view of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
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Front view of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
Rear view of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
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Rear view of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
Inner circuitry of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
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Inner circuitry of the SpeechJammer prototype(Photo: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
Circuit schematic of the SpeechJammer prototype(Image: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
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Circuit schematic of the SpeechJammer prototype(Image: K. Tsukada/ K. Kurihara)
A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking
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A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking

For those who don't suffer the talkative gladly, a pair of Japanese researchers may have come up with just the thing - a portable device that can painlessly jam a person's speech from up to 30 meters (98 ft) away. Ingeniously dubbed the "SpeechJammer," you aim it like a gun and, if it's anywhere near as effective as the Delayed Auditory Feedback exhibit I tried at my local science museum, it works like a charm.

The inventors, Kazutaka Kurihara with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Ochanomizu University's Koji Tsukada, explained that their prototype creation works by recording the offending speech with a directional microphone, adding a 0.2-second delay, and firing it right back at the run-on talker with a directional speaker. Our brains need instant feedback to continue governing speech properly - mess with that synchrony and, as I experienced at San Francisco's Exploratorium, your jabbering soon stammers to a halt.

"We live in the twenty-first century, when it is said that communication is the most important means of resolving conflicts," Kurihara and Tsukuda diplomatically explained in a recent paper describing their work. "However, there are still many cases in which the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to peaceful resolution of conflicts, sometimes further harming society."

While the need for such an effective muting device is indisputable, the subtle fact remains that the SpeechJammer is anything but ... well, subtle. The latest version looks like a large mutant phaser from Star Trek, so chances are good that many chatterboxes will go silent the moment they see the thing pointed at them, regardless of whether it's turned on! Ultimately, it could also lead to more noise than it was initially trying to suppress (arguments and fisticuffs, anyone?) and there are sure to be freedom-of-speech issues to consider, as well.

Remember, should a workable form of the SpeechJammer ever come to market and you try to shut someone up with it, be on the safe side and make sure you're much bigger than they are!

Check out the video below to see the prototype in use.

Source: Kazutaka Kurihara via Technology Review

SpeechJammer (en)

26 comments
Slowburn
The very definition of suppression of free speech; liberals will love it.
Forward Thinker
Oh come on slowburn lighten up. There's a place for political discussion, and that place is not a technology website
Bill Bennett
I had a boss I would have loved to use this on, control freak king, and as Forward Thinker said, Oh come on slowburn, lighten up,
phydeaux
Just cover your ears when you want to talk so it won't affect you. Doh!
joeblake
You can create the same effect by listening to an old reel-to-reel tape recorder in action and listening to the "record" and not the "monitor". It's not difficult to ignore. Otherwise a pair of noise cancelling earbuds would cancel it out. A complete waste of time.
jake61241
where was this thing when i was married?
Gadgeteer
In the era of ubiquitous cell phones and the oblivious people who have those glued to their ears, this would be heavenly. Although there is a free, low-tech way of dealing with such people, if you're game. If they won't stop jabbering on the phone, join the conversation. Listen in and talk to the caller. He or she can't talk to both you and the person on the other end of the call and should soon hang up, especially if you're a stranger.
Nicolas Zart
The perfect tool for a political year. Can you imagine one in every hand and shutting the incessant yapping from politicians while the rest of us actually go to work? Wow, the possibilities.
Christian Dillon
It didn't seem to work, they kept talking after it was fired just sounding even more annoying and stupid.
Mr Stiffy
Yeah the out of phase effect just rattles the brain - if you have ever gone on talk back radio with the 2 second delay - and heard yourself speak 2 seconds out of phase with what you are saying into the phone..... "Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz my mind is faltering"