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.