Device That Garbles Your Brain Awarded Ig Nobel Prize

Here’s something that doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s called the SpeechJammer, a device that, when pointed at someone, will repeat their own words back to them with a short delay, causing a disorienting echo effect that forces the person to just stop talking altogether.

“SpeechJammer is a system that 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.”

It won the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize in Acoustics last week, which is basically a parody of the Nobel Prize, awarded to bizarre achievements in science.

But is this device bizarre and unusual, or frightening?

Created by Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada of Japan, the SpeechJammer may very well go on to be used during meetings and other public speaking situations, to prevent others from speaking out-of-turn. But you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to understand the potential abuses of such technology.

Coupled with the technology used in direct-sound advertising, for example, our dystopian, post-apocalyptic future may be a very quiet one, indeed.

(Although, I admit, the video’s pretty funny.)


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions. Might be a robot.

Read More