At one time or another, we’ve all had the extreme urge to tell someone to “Shut the fuck up”; occasionally, we’ve even done it.
Well Japanese researchers have created a tool to do just exactly that.
SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback
Kazutaka Kurihara, Koji Tsukada
(Submitted on 28 Feb 2012)
In this paper we report on a system, “SpeechJammer”, which can be used to disturb people’s speech. In general, human speech is jammed by giving back to the speakers their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately by stop speaking. Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. We utilize this phenomenon and implemented two prototype versions by combining a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, enabling the speech of a specific person to be disturbed. We discuss practical application scenarios of the system, such as facilitating and controlling discussions. Finally, we argue what system parameters should be examined in detail in future formal studies based on the lessons learned from our preliminary study.
The Physics arXiv blog has more information.
The idea is simple. Psychologists have known for some years that it is almost impossible to speak when your words are replayed to you with a delay of a fraction of a second.
Kurihara and Tsukada have simply built a handheld device consisting of a microphone and a speaker that does just that: it records a person’s voice and replays it to them with a delay of about 0.2 seconds. The microphone and speaker are directional so the device can be aimed at a speaker from a distance, like a gun.
It doesn’t cause any discomfort, although I am sure it would cause some frustration, and perhaps lead to violence.
Their tests also identify some curious phenomena. They say the gun is more effective when the delay varies in time and more effective against speech that involves reading aloud than against spontaneous monologue.
It makes perfect sense to me. I find myself unable to carry on a conversation when surrounded by a cacophony of voices. Have two people talking to me at once and I can’t understand either one.
So far it’s not very inconspicuous.
So it would be easy to pick the jammer out of a crowd, unless it could be hidden in a duffel bag or back pack.
Commercial uses for the technology? Not yet, but once it is unleashed, someone will find a use for it.
So the next time someone tells you to “Shut the fuck up”, they may have the capability to do just exactly that.