US Navy Develops Weapon that Could make it Impossible to Speak

US Navy Develops Weapon that Could make it Impossible to Speak

If you’re a frequent Zoom caller, you’ll know that the dreaded echo is the most annoying and distracting event. Hearing your own voice played back to you with a tiny delay is so vexing that you end up yelling “can everyone silence their microphones please!” before losing your train of thought.

The US Navy is well aware of this phenomenon and appears to be considering using it as a non-lethal weapon that makes speech nearly impossible.

A new device called the handheld acoustic hailing and disruption (AHAD) system records your voice over a great distance before loudspeakers rebroadcast it back to you with a slight delay. The constant loop of speech makes it difficult to carry on discussions or transfer messages, both of which are critical in the military. Despite the fact that the patent was filed in 2019, it was only recently issued to the Navy this month.

To make it even more disruptive, the creators propose utilizing a directional speaker to target individuals, which can send sound accurately to a small area, allowing everyone to converse with themselves. People in the area would be unaware that the other person is being pursued. Imagine attempting to hold a logical discourse in an online meeting where everyone has bad Internet and their mics are turned off silent — it’s a nightmare.

The reason for the Navy’s extensive research and nearly three-year investment in this technology remains a mystery.

The technology is based on the delayed auditory feedback principle (DAF). DAF has previously been used to treat people who stutter, as some people have altered auditory systems that lead them to stammer, and it appears that introducing a loop of their own speech helps them. The loop, on the other hand, can be exceedingly disruptive to the majority of people who do not stutter. While the weapon may completely stop certain people’s speech, others appear to be unaffected.

According to a New Scientist interview with cognitive researcher Sophie Scott, delayed feedback reduces our ability to manage our own voices. Some people will start stammering, some may stop talking altogether, and yet others will start distorting their speech. This may be exceedingly problematic on a ship in the middle of a conflict situation, or as a crucial communicator or even translator.