Researchers develop 'SpeechJammer' gun that can quash human utterances

Mar 02, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Overview of SpeechJammer. Image: arXiv:1202.6106v1 [cs.HC]

(PhysOrg.com) -- Imagine sitting around a conference table with several of your colleagues as you hold an important meeting. Now imagine your boss pulling out what looks like a radar gun for catching speeding motorists and aiming at any of you that speak to long, very nearly instantly causing whoever is speaking to start stuttering then mumbling and then to stop speaking at all. That’s the idea behind the SpeechJammer, a gun that can be fired at people to force them to stop speaking. It’s the brainchild of Koji Tsukada and Kazutaka Kurihara, science and technology researchers in Japan. They’ve published a paper describing how it works on the preprint server arXiv.

The idea is based on the fact that to speak properly, we humans need to hear what we’re saying so that we can constantly adjust how we go about it, scientists call it delayed auditory feedback. It’s partly why singers are able to sing better when they wear headphones that allow them to hear their own voice as they sing with music, or use feedback monitors when onstage. Trouble comes though when there is a slight delay between the time the words are spoken and the time they are heard. If that happens, people tend to get discombobulated and stop speaking, and that’s the whole idea behind the SpeechJammer. It’s basically just a gun that causes someone speaking to hear their own words delayed by 0.2 seconds.

Front view of SpeechJammer prototype. Image: arXiv:1202.6106v1

To make that happen, the two attached a directional microphone and speaker to a box that also holds a laser pointer and distance sensor and of course a computer board to compute the delay time based on distance from the speaker. To make it work, the person using it points the gun at the person talking, using the laser pointer as a guide, then pulls the trigger. It works for distances up to a hundred feet.

The two say they have no plans to market the device, but because the technology is so simple, it’s doubtful they could patent it anyway. The idea though is likely to spread like wildfire. Surely it won’t be long before Oscar winners are jammed instead of herded offstage by increasing the music volume. Or hecklers in a crowd silenced at a moment’s notice. And just as surely human rights advocates will decry the use of such a device by politicians or government leaders, just as consumers will demand a much smaller version that will allow them to silence people that annoy them from afar, anonymously.

Back view of SpeechJammer prototype. Image: arXiv:1202.6106v1

And after that, new laws will have to be written to govern their use, of course, because no matter how much people would like to force others to shut up, they’ll hate it just as much it when it’s pointed at them.

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More information: SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback, Kazutaka Kurihara, Koji Tsukada, arXiv:1202.6106v1 [cs.HC] arxiv.org/abs/1202.6106

Abstract
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.

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User comments : 37

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Deadbolt
3.7 / 5 (12) Mar 02, 2012
Excellent! This device can be used for preventing people from making utterances against the public good. Outside the designated, monitored "free speech zones", of course.
Husky
5 / 5 (7) Mar 02, 2012
surely this could be a mobile phone app, shut the frase up! i wonder if some sneaky people in the audience will use it to disrupt one of the candidates in a presidential debate to make him/her look insecure...
EllaFirebird
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
Excellent. I'm going to get one and point it at the Jeremy Kyle show.
Skepticus
3.4 / 5 (10) Mar 02, 2012
Now, if they can invent a Net version to stop all the bullshitting with written words and videos...
Birger
2.8 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2012
Since I don't like to hear people loudly talk about the gruesome details of their dates of the previous evening, the quality of their bowel movements or a hundred other "oversharing" topics people chat about on the cellphone when on the bus, I would certainly welcome this...

Also, we need an automated version: Teenagers who are chronically unable to express themselves without using verbal tics such as "like" or "f*ck" or "man" every five seconds should have a unit cuffed to the arm and triggered by cue words until they manage to express themselves reasonably coherently :-)
musmusculus
4.6 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
If you don't like hearing what others say, or how they say it, ear-plugs are rather easier to transport.
Xbw
2.8 / 5 (17) Mar 02, 2012
You KNOW this guy invented this because he has a girlfriend that never shuts up.
hyongx
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
I wonder how focused the effect is. Do the people sitting next to or within several feet of the target also get affected?
Hesca419
5 / 5 (7) Mar 02, 2012
Trouble comes though when there is a slight delay between the time the words are spoken and the time they are heard. If that happens, people tend to get discombobulated and stop speaking, and thats the whole idea behind the SpeechJammer. Its basically just a gun that causes someone speaking to hear their own words delayed by 0.2 seconds.


So you can beat it with practice. Can't wait to see the look on that boss' face when you just keep talking as though his little mind-control toy only worked on him.
TAz00
3 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2012
lol, didnt know there was a Mike Knob xD and what purpose does Mike have in this project? Think it would work alot better with a mic
XQuantumKnightX
3.3 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2012
Ha Ha LOL LOL Finally a solution for my crying babies! LOL YES THANK YOU GOD!!! LOL
kochevnik
3.4 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
Ok what else besides this do I need to set up my own dictatorship?
technicalengeneering
1.8 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2012
A VERY BAD DEVICE. It will literally prevent people from having a voice, that is a say on their own life. These people should be stopped.
night puppy
5 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
Uh, come on folks, this isn't a bad device unless you have an IQ of 1. Anyone who wants to keep on talking will keep on talking, and it doesn't take much brain power to get past something like this. After the initial shock the speaker will immediately start to adapt to what's going on and nothing will change. It's not a weapon against free speech, it's a high school science project.
Xbw
2.5 / 5 (11) Mar 02, 2012
Ok what else besides this do I need to set up my own dictatorship?


With this, you are pretty much set. You made need a good sculptor though to sculpt all those enormous statues of yourself. Aside from that, you're good.
Star_Gazer
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 02, 2012
Nothing that pair of earplugs can't fix.
Skepticus
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 02, 2012
Nothing that pair of earplugs can't fix.

Yeah, and they will come up with a portable infrasonic projector. Making the whole audience feel creepy about what the speaker is saying, and the speaker feel nauseous and uneasy about what he is mouthing. Infrasonic does not care whether you have earplugs or not. The whole body is the conductor due to the longer wavelength.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (4) Mar 02, 2012
TAz00:
lol, didnt know there was a Mike Knob xD and what purpose does Mike have in this project? Think it would work alot better with a mic
"Mike" and "mic" are both used; no problem.
"Alot", instead of the correct form "a lot", *is* a problem. Object to *real* deficiencies of education, OK?
Magus
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2012
Take that free speech.
Claudius
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2012
Just think what Archie Bunker could have done with this thing. "Edith, stifle!"
HealingMindN
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
So you can beat it with practice. Can't wait to see the look on that boss' face when you just keep talking as though his little mind-control toy only worked on him.


That is, unless the feds shoot us in the heads with an implantable chip that causes the same echo effect.
Deesky
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
@Silverhill
"Mike" and "mic" are both used; no problem.
"Alot", instead of the correct form "a lot", *is* a problem. Object to *real* deficiencies of education, OK?

Noone cares. Bazinga!
uhjim
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
The prison for profit corporations of america are going to love this.
Sinister1811
1.3 / 5 (12) Mar 03, 2012
I want one of these devices. Seriously though, this will fix those people who just can't shut up.
Sinister1811
1.3 / 5 (12) Mar 03, 2012
You could actually have a lot of fun with one of these..
Sinister1811
1.3 / 5 (12) Mar 03, 2012
Nothing that pair of earplugs can't fix.


Earplugs aren't 100% effective -- you can still hear with a pair of earplugs.
Tausch
1 / 5 (4) Mar 03, 2012
:)
The next step:
Delayed thought feedback.

Thwarting ourselves.

We do cognitively with gadgets (humans label this 'weaponry' - physical or mental), what lemmings do physically:
Cordless bungee jumping.
hjbasutu
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 03, 2012
A perfect weapon to use against a noisy nagging girlfriend or wife..
KingDWS
not rated yet Mar 03, 2012
I ts funny I just went through a config setup for my voice to text and it has maybe a 200ms delay in the audio playbaco at one point. At first it is very disturbing and reappy upsets your talking. You do get used to it fast but even then your peach is very ddisjoimted or hesitant even when concentrating. This uses a pre written paragraph to read so i wonder how well his would work with unreferenced normal speach. Definitely have to build one.:-)
kaasinees
2.8 / 5 (9) Mar 03, 2012
Now use it on justin bieber.
Ironhorse
not rated yet Mar 03, 2012
Keep it permanently pointed at management. ;P
TimESimmons
1 / 5 (4) Mar 03, 2012
what happens if the speaker also has a gun and points it back?
Big Boy
not rated yet Mar 03, 2012
Universal rule of science: for every Marie Currie, there are 2 Josef Mengles.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Mar 03, 2012
"Alot", instead of the correct form "a lot", *is* a problem. Object to *real* deficiencies of education, OK?
Couple this gun with a spell checker and you could devastate the bible-belt heartland.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2012
1. I wonder if continually adjusting the delay to different random amounts would enhance the effect? Make it harder to train against?
2. I wonder what the effect on other animals is?
WorldJunkie
not rated yet Mar 04, 2012
And what would prevent a person from just blocking their ears and continue shouting?
stealthc
1 / 5 (4) Mar 05, 2012
take this to the next straw poll and see how the candidates handle a little pressure....