Thinking Tech

'Silence gun' leaves talkers speechless -- literally

Posting in Technology

Wish you can silence that annoying person yapping off on a cell phone? The Speechjammer make it happen with a mere push of a button.

Wish you can silence that annoying person yapping off on a cell phone? Now scientists have figured out a way to make it happen with a mere push of a button.

With a device called the Speechjammer, users can mute even the loudest talkers. Deactivating someone's voice without their consent is some serious stuff. But the silence gun doesn't cause any physical harm nor alters the person's voice in any way. Instead, it operates on a phenomenon called delayed auditory feedback wherein an attached microphone picks up the speech and plays it back with a delay of 200 milliseconds. The echo effect causes the person's brain to become so disoriented that it literally shuts down the region responsible for speech.

“This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately [after] the speaking stops, ” wrote the researchers in a report. “Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. It is expected that the negative aspects of speech…can be relaxed by the ability to jam remote people’s speech.”

The inventors, however, don't plan to patent the technology because it's relatively simple and there's almost certain that some company will come out with market-ready product. And to demonstrate how such a device can come in handy, they recently released video that the silence gun can be used to ensure people can study in libraries without being disturbed or to put a stop to that endless mindnumbing lecture (although I'm sure they were just being a bit cheeky).

Still, I can imagine it's also the kind of technology some people would use on themselves just for kicks.

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure