SpeechJammer Leaves Victims Tongue-Tied
Ever wish you could force someone to shut up? A pair of Japanese researchers have found a novel (and disturbing and bizarre) use for an existing audio device that can do just that — they have essentially “weaponized” a medical auditory device used to help people with speech problems, and redesigned the technology to create the SpeechJammer, which can prevent another person from talking.
The device looks like a radar gun, and includes a direction-sensitive microphone, speaker, motherboard, and a distance sensor. It works like a delayed auditory feedback (DAF) device, which are frequently used to help stutterers. The principal behind a DAF is that if a stutterer hears their own voice delayed, their speech can improve. If you target a non-stutterer, however, it can actually cause stuttering. And the SpeechJammer (unlike traditional DAF devices) can target speakers from a distance of up to 111 ft. (34 meters) away — meaning that you could potentially use it to disrupt the speech of annoying coworkers, diners, or even paid public speakers.
The ultrasonic sensor targets the speaker, records their voice, then broadcasts it back with a fifth of a second delay, disrupting speech patterns.
Researchers Kazutaka Kurihara (of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) and Koji Tsukada (Ochanomizu University) have published a paper about the device and its uses. Among the practical applications listed: “facilitating and controlling discussions.”
You can see a video of the device in action below: