'SpeechJammer' wins Ig Nobel Prize
Mon, 24 Sep 2012 9:39a.m.
The SpeechJammer has been named the 2012 winner of the Ig Nobel prize, an award sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for weird and humorous scientific discoveries.
The SpeechJammer is a device that disrupts a person's speech by repeating his or her own voice at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds.
Kazutaka Kurihara and co-creator Koji Tsukada say the device is meant to help public speakers by alerting them if they are speaking too quickly or have taken up more than their allotted time.
"People are confused when people hear their own voice with a few hundred milliseconds delay," said device co-creator Kazutaka Kurihara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.
As usual, the ersatz Nobels were handed out by real Nobel laureates, including 2007 economics winner Eric Maskin, who was also the prize in the "Win a Date with a Nobel Laureate" contest.
Marc Abrahams, who publishes the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, started the prize 22 years ago. He explained his motivation was more comedic than scientific.
"These are prizes for things that make people laugh and then think. That's it. It's nothing to do with good or bad, it's nothing to do with important or not. They make people laugh and then think," said Abrahams.
Other winners feted on Thursday at Harvard University's opulent Sanders Theatre included Dutch researchers who won the psychology prize for studying why leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower look smaller; four Americans who took the neuroscience prize for demonstrating that sophisticated equipment can detect brain activity in dead fish; a British-American team that won the physics prize for explaining how and why ponytails bounce; and the US General Accountability Office, which won the literature prize for a report about reports.
The 22nd annual Ig Nobels ceremony had the theme "The Universe" this year.
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