Quiet please! SpeechJammer can cut you off in mid-sentence

Last Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 17:41

London: Incessant talkers, beware! Japanese scientists claim to have created a device which can instantly shut down a person`s ability to speak.

Dubbed the SpeechJammer, the portable device can force obnoxious talkers to come to a stuttering halt whether it`s during meetings, movies or while yammering away on the phone at public libraries, say the scientists.

The device takes advantage of psychologists` discovery that it is virtually impossible to speak when your own words are being played back to you with a delay of a fraction of a second, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.

The new gadget has, in fact, been devised by Kazutaka Kurihara, a researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Prof Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo, and is remarkably simple.

The hand-held device consists of a microphone that it pointed at the speaker and records that person`s voice. It then transfers the sounds to a speaker and replays them back in the same direction with a delay of about 0.2 seconds, say the scientists.

The microphone and speaker are directional so the device can be aimed at a speaker from a distance, like a gun. "The system can disturb remote people`s speech without any physical comfort," the scientists said in a paper reported in the `MIT Technology Review`.

Their tests also uncovered some unexpected findings, such as that the gun is more effective when the delay varies in time. It also works better when the speaker is reading
aloud rather than giving a spontaneous monologue.

Their research also revealed that it has no effect on meaningless sound sequences, such as "aaaargh."

Kurihara and Tsukada have not spelled out the commercial potential for their invention, but have listed some possible applications. They said it could be used to maintain silence in libraries and to "facilitate discussion" in group meetings.

"We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn- taking when speaking. There are still many cases in which the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to the peaceful resolution of conflicts," they said.

PTI



First Published: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 17:40

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