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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Introducing the SpeechJammer

Ever wish you could get someone to shut up? Kazutaka Kurihara at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University may have just the thing for you.  They’ve been testing a device that effectively silences speakers. Their ‘SpeechJammer’ relies on the fact that people find it impossible to speak when their words are replayed to them a fraction of a second later.

The idea of repeating back a person’s own words on a short delay is not a new one.  In fact, devices that rely on delayed auditory feedback have been used to improve stuttering.  The artificial delay between speaking a word and hearing that word affects most people’s ability to speak, for better or worse.  Stutterers are helped, but unimpaired people are muted by the confusion this causes.

The researchers made use of this phenomenon by remotely recording and playing back people’s speech.  They built a couple of prototypes that use lasers to aim direction-sensitive microphones and speakers at tiresome talkers. In preliminary tests, the devices worked pretty well at preventing people from reading aloud, but were less effective at stopping spontaneous speech.

The authors see many uses for their product, as illustrated in the following video.

Hat tip: Not Exactly Rocket Science.