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Japanese Speech-jamming Device Revealed: The "Shut-Up" Machine

Updated on March 13, 2012

Japanese technology leaves you speechless

It always boils down to money. Almost as soon as this new technological break-through was announced - a Japanese device for speech disruption, the first question asked was, "Would you buy a "shut-up" device?" Not, "What is it?" Or, "How does it work?," Just would you buy one.

"Is it real?" might have been a better question, and that question could be easily answered with a quick perusal of the latest edition of MIT's TechnologyReview magazine and website. It seems that the device is real, and even better, works on a simple human speech function that has been known for decades. If there is a doubt about a market for such a device, just consider how many husbands have already left to check out the MIT site.


The Shut-up Device Announcement

Two Japanese scientists, Kazutaka Kurihara, of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba, and Koji Tsukada of Ochanomizu University have announced that they have invented a device that when aimed at someone talking, will cause them to stop talking 98% of time.

Building on a human trait that psychologists have known for decades - the simplicity of their device is amazing.

As humans speak they are constantly listening to what they are saying, even as more speech follows it. If what they hear doesn't sound like what they expected to hear, then it causes an automatic pause in the brain's speech process, as it tries to puzzle out what went wrong.

For instance, if a person is about to speak the line; "All good things come to those who wait," even as the first words are leaving their mouth, their brain has the rest of the words lined up to follow in the proper order. But the brain is also monitoring what it hears, even as it is being spoken. So, as the speaker says; "All good things..." the brain hears; "All good things...," knows all is ok, and follows through with; "come to those who wait." A smooth uninterrupted process.

But, if instead of hearing; "All good things..." when it expects it, it hears instead; pause, pause, "All good things...," then it realizes something is wrong and holds up the next batch of words; "come to those who wait," while it tries to figure out what went wrong. Result... mid-sentence silence. The "shut-up" effect.

*see composite image components citations
*see composite image components citations | Source

How the "Shut-Up" machine works

Once the psychological concept of how the brain monitors our speech is understood, the concept behind the "shut-up" machine is so simple it's a wonder it hasn't been invented before.

The hand-held device has a directional microphone that picks-up and instantly records whatever the person it is pointed at says. It also has a timing sensor that parses the pace of the speech pattern, and a uni-directional speaker array that blasts the sound back at the speaker with a 0.2 second delay. The uni-directional speaker has such a tight broardcast spectrum that only the person it is pointed at can hear it.

In operation, whatever someone says is almost immediately broadcast right back at them, but with that 0.2 second delay. So when they say; "All good things..." and the brain is waiting to send out; "... come to those who wait," instead of hearing "All good things...," it hears; "pause...All... pause... good... pause... things... pause...," which it immediately recognizes as wrong, so it holds up sending "... comes to those who wait," until it figures out what went wrong with the first part. This becomes a never ending loop, which effectively leaves the speaker speechless while the brain tries to figure out what is going on. The "Shut-up" affect strikes!

But to answer the question...

But to answer the question; "Would you buy a "shut-up" device?" the simple answer is... in a heartbeat. There are a lot of politicians out there that would benefit greatly by having their brains forced into that speech-jammong loop long enough for them to think about what they really want to say.

GA Anderson aka the Curmudgeon
GA Anderson aka the Curmudgeon | Source

About the Author

Reporting for the Daily Constitutional, and providing articles for various online publishing sites are my primary work responsibilities, but it is the freelance editorials from the Curmudgeon's desk that provide the most satisfaction. - GAA

See more of my writings at:

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*see composite image component citations | Source

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Japanese Speech-jamming Device Revealed: The "Shut-Up" Machine Comments

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    • GA Anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      GA Anderson 

      6 years ago from USA

      @Healthy Pursuits - thanks for reading "Japanese Speech-jamming Device Revealed: The "Shut-Up" Machine."

      I can see you feel passionate about your comment, but the article was intended primarily for information, not for advocating the use of the device.

      Also, don't forget the old adage... "a double edge sword can cut both ways..."


    • Healthy Pursuits profile image

      Karla Iverson 

      6 years ago from Oregon

      While I agree that some politicians - and lots of other people - need to think about what they say, who will determine what is and isn't appropriate for another person to say? Does having this machine make the user of it automatically the authority on what should and shouldn't be said? It seems that a good invention for the assistance of people who need help speaking has been turned into a weapon for hindering free speech.

      Makes me sad for us that we can't ever seem to refrain from using the weapon potential of our good inventions.

      At any rate, this was an informative hub. Thank you for the info.

    • GA Anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      GA Anderson 

      6 years ago from USA

      @samsons 1 - thanks for another visit, and reading "Japanese Speech-jamming Device Revealed: The "Shut-Up" Machine"

      I have heard about that cell phone jamming thingie - maybe I'll look into it. Thanks for the vote and comment too.


    • samsons1 profile image


      6 years ago from Tennessee

      Well written and concise. At first I thought this was going to be about the cell phone jamming device (there's another idea, GA) Voted up and interesting...

    • GA Anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      GA Anderson 

      6 years ago from USA

      @ptosis - Thanks for reading "Japanese Speech-jamming Device Revealed: The "Shut-Up" Machine," and thanks for posing the question.

      I think I'll expand this article later re. the stuttering cure


    • ptosis profile image


      6 years ago from Arizona

      speech-jammong ? BTW the shut-up machine was original for stopping peeople from stuttering - interesting on the brains feed back. thanks for answering my question!


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