How to stop a talking head

DE RERUM NATURA - Maria Isabel Garcia () - March 8, 2012 - 12:00am

Have you ever stared at someone who was talking his/her head off and wondered where in the universe is the power to stop him or her? Wonder no more. Introducing the SpeechJammer!

This is one of those columns when I can laugh out loud and shout “hurray” for science coming out with something that we are probably too polite or afraid to wish for. But that is what is wonderful about science and technology! It could come up with practical solutions to annoying problems that we thought we would have to endure eternally.

Japanese scientists namely Kazutaka Kurihara from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and Koji Tsukada of the Ochonmizu University, both in Japan, just came out with a device called the SpeechJammer. The published study was entitled “SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback.”

The scientists identified two situations why the SpeechJammer would be welcome. The first one, they called “The louder, the stronger” which essentially described a situation where there is one dominant speaker who will not give the floor to anyone else with their incessant and forceful speech.” Sounds all too familiar? The second situation, they named “I Cannot Say ‘Be Quiet’” refers to situations where someone talks too much in public places like libraries or vehicles like trains. The researchers noted that in this age of communication, “there are cases where the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.”

The SpeechJammer uses a known and proven principle in science called Delayed Auditory Feedback (or DAF) whereby a recording of your voice is made and that recording is played back to you a fraction of a second later. The delayed playback is known to stop the brain from processing any more words that will come out of your mouth or as other writers took note, “discombobulate” you. The SpeechJammer has a directional microphone and a directional speaker and a laser pointer to measure the distance of the target and to help it zero in on the voice to be silenced.

Like in many studies, theirs included a diagram of human figures with a thought bubble that contained “Bla bla bla” and the second diagram without the “Bla bla bla” after the SpeechJammer did its job. If there is one thing that you could really attribute to science, it is clarity. And can you imagine how peaceful our current airwaves would be without the kind of “bla bla bla” that we have all been getting.

But wait there’s more! You can use the SpeechJammer in distances up to 34 meters. It is also proven to be more effective in silencing incessant talkers (those who utter many words) but not too effective on the ones who say one prolonged meaningless words like “Ahhh.”

And if you order now, you would not really get it right away since it is still a prototype. Critics were quick to warn about the dangers of silencing free speech. But I can bet my bottom peso that any Filipino who watches the news and who is reading this right now wants to get one SpeechJammer for one particular purpose alone. All I can say is, see you in line.

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For comments, e-mail dererumnaturastar@hotmail.com.

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