"Are you irritated by empty talks at office, or boring and endless lectures?"
So begins the pitch for one of the greatest gadgets ever to come out of Japan (and there's been a lot): the SpeechJammer.
Billed as an "artificial speech disturbance system," the SpeechJammer confuses speakers from up to 30 meters away by recording and replaying their own words back to them a fraction of a millisecond later.
As Innovation News Daily explains, the technique is a "psychological trick that creates a delay between the time talkers speak and the time when they hear the words coming out of their mouths. The hearing delay trips up the brain's thinking processes and causes the person to stutter."
The SpeechJammer's inventors, Kazutaka Kurihara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba and Koji Tsukada of Ochanomizu University, tested out their prototype – which consists of a distance sensor, directional microphone, speaker, laser pointer and trigger, and resembles a radar speed gun – on five participants, with some success.
In their project write-up, they say that the device effectively silenced speakers who were reading prepared speeches, though it was less successful at stopping people in the middle of "spontaneous monologues." And those who made repetitive nonsense sounds instead of words could not be stopped at all.
Tsukada and Kurihara suggest the SpeechJammer has several applications, ranging from ensuring everyone gets a chance to contribute to discussions to reducing excessive noise in libraries, from shutting up chatty colleagues to ending overly long lectures.
Technology Review concludes: "Clearly, speech jamming has a significant future role in contributing to world peace and should obviously be installed at the United Nations with immediate effect."
Where would you use the SpeechJammer? Tell us in the comments below.