[Noisebridge-discuss] speechjammer - we need one for meetings

Jake jake at spaz.org
Fri Mar 2 19:59:52 UTC 2012

we can just build one, it's pretty simple technology.


"SpeechJammer" Invention Stops A Person Talking Mid-Sentence

Featured Article
Main Category: Medical Devices / Diagnostics
Also Included In: Psychology / Psychiatry;  Hearing / Deafness
Article Date: 02 Mar 2012 - 11:00 PST

Healthcare Prof:

Two researchers in Japan have invented a "SpeechJammer" device that can 
stop a person talking in mid-sentence, by just projecting back to them 
"their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds". The 
device does not stop them talking permanently, it is just that they become 
so confused, they can't finish their sentence and begin to stutter or just 
shut up.

The two researchers are Kazutaka Kurihara, a media interaction research 
scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and 
Technology, and Koji Tsukada, an assistant professor at Ochanomizu 
University, and a researcher at JST PRESTO, a program that aims to 
"cultivate the seeds of precursory science and technology".

They describe their prototype SpeechJammer, and the results of some 
experiments, in a paper published on 28 February on arVix, an e-print 
service owned, operated and quality controlled by Cornell University.

The researchers say the device causes no physical discomfort to the 
interrupted speaker, and the effect stops as soon as they stop speaking.

The prototype SpeechJammer looks like a black cube about the size of a 
shoebox mounted on a shaft which acts as a handle. The box contains a 
direction-sensitive speaker, and on top of it is a direction-sensitive 

On Kazutaka Kurihara's personal website there is a short video 
demonstrating the use of the device in two scenarios.

The first scenario shows a small group of people in an office, working at 
their computers, when one of them receives a call on her cellphone. The 
conversation begins to irritate the others, and then one of them decides 
to take action. He points the SpeechJammer at the irritating talker, 
interrupting her mid-sentence in her cellphone conversation, whereupon she 
appears confused, and then stops.

In the other scenario, a lecturer is talking and his lecture has run over 
time. Many of his students are looking quite bored and fed up and one of 
them takes the SpeechJammer, points it at the lecturer, and he trips over 
his own words and stutters, interrupting his flow.

The SpeechJammer works on the principle of Delayed Audio Feedback or DAF. 
There is a theory that when we speak, we use the sound of our own voice 
uttering the words to help us. But, if that "playback" is artificially 
delayed, it interrupts the cognitive processing that helps us maintain our 
flow. In fact, there is a theory that something akin to DAF is what 
happens to people who stutter, and it is known that artificially induced 
DAF can help reduce stuttering.

In their paper the researchers describe how they experimented with two 
speech contexts: one where the speaker was reading news out loud and 
another that was a "spontaneous monologue".

It appears that speech jamming is more successful, with this prototype, in 
the news out loud than in the monologue context, and also, it became 
obvious that it never works when meaningless sound is uttered, like when 
someone says "Ahhh" over a long period of time.

With reference to research on communication and decision making, Kurihara 
and Tsukada point out that applying rules and constraints on verbal 
contributions can change the properties of the discussion, and they also 
mention how "negative features" of speech can be "barriers toward peaceful 

They propose that using the SpeechJammer to place a constraint on 
communication, by simply making "speech difficult for some people", it 
might "bring meaningful changes to communication patterns in discussions".

Such a system "points the way to promising future research relating to 
discussion dynamics," they write.

In their paper, the researchers focus very much on the science: the 
physics of the device and how it might be improved to deal with various 
parameters, plus the science of communication, and make no mention of the 
ethical and legal aspects of developing a machine that makes people stop 

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today

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