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Silence! Japanese researchers build speech-jamming gun


A pair of Japanese researchers have create a solution to a problem we didn’t even know existed: People talking too loudly, for too long, or out of turn. Their answer — a “gun” that silences the person speaking.

Dubbed the “SpeechJammer,” this unique device, created by Kazutaka Kurihara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Koji Tsukada of Ochanomizu University, uses a directional microphone to record the person speaking. A direction-sensitive loudspeaker then plays back the recording after a delay of about 0.2 seconds, a technique known as Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF), which makes it nearly impossible for the speaker to continue talking.

speechjammer-2“This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately [after] the speaking stops, ” write the researchers in their report on the SpeechJammer (pdf). “Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. It is expected that the negative aspects of speech…can be relaxed by the ability to jam remote people’s speech.”

What are “the negative aspects of speech,” you ask? The researchers say there are two primary types: unavoidable speech, or speech that you have to listen to and can’t stop; and “occupancy” speech, when two people are trying to talk at once. These types of speech, say the researchers, hamper “fair discussions,” which “are essential for resolving conflicts through communications.” And it is for this purpose that they created the SpeechJammer.

Uh, okay… Maybe it’s just us, but we find it hard to believe that the world’s problems are caused by people talking too much, or talking over one another. Moreover, it seems as though the creation of a device that can literally be used to stifle free speech (at a political rally, say, or an Occupy Wall Street protest) is anything but good. In fact, the SpeechJammer might just be one of the most troubling piece of technology this side of the un-manned drone.

Dystopian future, here we come.

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