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Japanese team invents device that silences the overly-wordy


March 2, 2012

A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking

A Japanese team has invented a portable device that painlessly causes people to stop talking

For those who don't suffer the talkative gladly, a pair of Japanese researchers may have come up with just the thing - a portable device that can painlessly jam a person's speech from up to 30 meters (98 ft) away. Ingeniously dubbed the "SpeechJammer," you aim it like a gun and, if it's anywhere near as effective as the Delayed Auditory Feedback exhibit I tried at my local science museum, it works like a charm.

The inventors, Kazutaka Kurihara with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Ochanomizu University's Koji Tsukada, explained that their prototype creation works by recording the offending speech with a directional microphone, adding a 0.2-second delay, and firing it right back at the run-on talker with a directional speaker. Our brains need instant feedback to continue governing speech properly - mess with that synchrony and, as I experienced at San Francisco's Exploratorium, your jabbering soon stammers to a halt.

"We live in the twenty-first century, when it is said that communication is the most important means of resolving conflicts," Kurihara and Tsukuda diplomatically explained in a recent paper describing their work. "However, there are still many cases in which the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to peaceful resolution of conflicts, sometimes further harming society."

While the need for such an effective muting device is indisputable, the subtle fact remains that the SpeechJammer is anything but ... well, subtle. The latest version looks like a large mutant phaser from Star Trek, so chances are good that many chatterboxes will go silent the moment they see the thing pointed at them, regardless of whether it's turned on! Ultimately, it could also lead to more noise than it was initially trying to suppress (arguments and fisticuffs, anyone?) and there are sure to be freedom-of-speech issues to consider, as well.

Remember, should a workable form of the SpeechJammer ever come to market and you try to shut someone up with it, be on the safe side and make sure you're much bigger than they are!

Check out the video below to see the prototype in use.

Source: Kazutaka Kurihara via Technology Review

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson

The very definition of suppression of free speech; liberals will love it.


Oh come on slowburn lighten up. There's a place for political discussion, and that place is not a technology website

Forward Thinker

I had a boss I would have loved to use this on, control freak king, and as Forward Thinker said, Oh come on slowburn, lighten up,

Bill Bennett

Just cover your ears when you want to talk so it won't affect you. Doh!


You can create the same effect by listening to an old reel-to-reel tape recorder in action and listening to the "record" and not the "monitor". It's not difficult to ignore.

Otherwise a pair of noise cancelling earbuds would cancel it out.

A complete waste of time.


where was this thing when i was married?


In the era of ubiquitous cell phones and the oblivious people who have those glued to their ears, this would be heavenly. Although there is a free, low-tech way of dealing with such people, if you're game. If they won't stop jabbering on the phone, join the conversation. Listen in and talk to the caller. He or she can't talk to both you and the person on the other end of the call and should soon hang up, especially if you're a stranger.


The perfect tool for a political year. Can you imagine one in every hand and shutting the incessant yapping from politicians while the rest of us actually go to work? Wow, the possibilities.

Nicolas Zart

It didn't seem to work, they kept talking after it was fired just sounding even more annoying and stupid.

Christian Dillon

Yeah the out of phase effect just rattles the brain - if you have ever gone on talk back radio with the 2 second delay - and heard yourself speak 2 seconds out of phase with what you are saying into the phone.....

"Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz my mind is faltering"

Mr Stiffy

I get the "Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz my mind is faltering" feeling listening to talk back radio.

Christian Dillon

What a great tool for political rallies and annoying people on public transport who just keep talking and ignore everyone staring at them wishing they would stop.

Although, you might want to turn off the laser for political rallies because the secret service or FBI might jump on you not knowing it is not a weapon.


This could become a favorite tool for a politician's handlers. No need to worry about hecklers or dissent, just point and shoot. Oh and that pushy reporters questions? No more! And that is not a good thing. But then I suppose the tables could be surreptitiously turned on the politicians as well.


Why not use it to create Star Treks Universal Translator? A device that blocks your speech and replaces it with another language?


quite funny 8)

Kirill Belousov

I thought of a similar idea if you had a noisy neighbour. Pick up the loud music with a microphone, delay it through a guitar delay pedal, put it through an amplifier, and place the loudspeaker against the party wall. That should do it! I guess someone could hire out the necessary equipment.


If this could keep politicians from the lie constantly being used it might have a future. Otherwise telling someone, you got their point, or show them your back woud be as effective.



Yes! I've been looking for technology to do this for a while now, but I'm not sure if delaying the sound would work, I think you need to create an inverse pressure wave. I'm thinking delaying the sound would only create more noise. Because wearing noise cancelling headphones can be a pain if you are trying to sleep.


The House can use a gizmo like this.

John Tagamolila

We wish we could use the SpeechJammer on Slowburn's Republican babble.

The Hoff

@Jugen. I didn't explain my idea fully. What happens is that yes, it would create more noise, but I reckon it would spoil the music for the nuisance neighbour fairly quickly. I suppose another way would be to play loud classical music, again with the speaker against the wall.


Windykites 1 yes you did exactly as this machine does. This device comes in the realm of psychological warfare as nothing physical is involved. When I was small I used to simply repeat what the other person is saying in realtime. It was pretty instant and really annoying for others and had dramatic effects. It's strange how one thought of this as funny when young actually had a scientific basis.

Dawar Saify

Once the speakers find people using this, they'll just get ear plugs.

Bob Tackett

If you silence them they will still want to talk. Make them not want to talk. Make the device transform their voice to sound like a chipmunk or better yet you could use that gas vortex gun as shown in one of the gizmag articles and shoot helium into peoples mouths. Fun for everyone!


"We wish we could use the SpeechJammer on Slowburn's Republican babble. comment The Hoff - March 5, 2012 @ 07:44 pm PST"

That proves my point quite nicely. But I'm a constitutional conservative not Dem light.


now this would be far more impressive if it emitted a negative sound wave of what the person was saying, totally silencing them altogether. but you would have to consider the time the sound takes to get to your mic, and the time the sound takes to get back to the source :/ too bad it isn't possible.

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