Some people talk just to hear their own voice, which makes the SpeechJammer, winner of this year's Ig Nobel Prize for acoustics, as ironic as it is useful.
Created by two Japanese researchers, the speech-disrupting device uses the sound of the speaker's voice--replayed at a very slight delay--to silence even the most persistent chatterboxes.
Kazutaka Kurihara, 34, and Koji Tsukada, 35, received their prize Sept. 20 at the annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony, held at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
It is the sixth consecutive year that a Japanese invention has been honored with one of the awards, which recognize weird and humorous scientific discoveries.
In developing their device, Kurihara, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Tsukada, of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, utilized the commonly known fact that it's nearly impossible to continue talking when another speaker constantly interrupts.
Their machine uses a directional microphone to record the speaker and a direction-sensitive speaker to play the speech back at him or her with a lag of a few hundred milliseconds, in effect causing the speaker to self-interrupt.
The researchers stressed that the device causes no physical discomfort, either for the offending orator or those nearby.
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