Eavesdropping Assistant Disturbs The Sound Of Silence

Unless you happen to be from Finland, this is just an all too familiar situation: you’re stuck in an inescapable situation with this one person who is really more of an acquaintance than a friend, and neither of you knows who should say something in hopes of keeping a conversation going. Awkward silence is inevitable, and the longer it lasts, the more excruciating the thought of opening your mouth becomes. Well, consider those days over, thanks to [Jasper Choi] and his friends, who blessed us with the System for Awkward Silence Solution and Interaction Enhancer, or SASSIE.

Built as a laser-cut rotating cylinder, and equipped with a pair of microphones, SASSIE detects and counts the duration of any ongoing silence in the room. Once a pre-defined time limit is reached, it rotates itself to a random direction, symbolically pointing a finger to one of the people present in the room to indicate its their turn to speak now. To break the silence right off the bat, the finger pointing is accompanied by some pre-recorded messages. Unfortunately the audio files exceeded the storage of the Arduino Uno used here, so the responsibilities had to be divided between two Arduinos, arranged with the help of some simple serial communication.

While this is obviously a tongue-in-cheek project, it might just be a welcoming relieve for people with social anxiety, and there is definitely potential to take the idea further. Maybe with some inspiration from this happy robot fellow, a future version might ease the conversation even further by suggesting a topic along the way.

12 thoughts on “Eavesdropping Assistant Disturbs The Sound Of Silence

  1. The only Fin I’ve known was never known to say much. Is that the point of the first sentence ?

    And when he did speak he had something important to say so you better have been listening.

    1. That, and the fact that in many cases it’s fine to sit in silence, if you have nothing to say. It’s not seen as awkward or at least not to such extent as it would in some other countries.

    2. Finns are happy to leave the room silent when the conversation dies.
      Sometimes whole corporate lunch rooms can be silent for a handful of minutes.
      It’s terrifying… And refreshing

      1. The only good thing I learned today is that finally I learn there is a place in the world where people can naturally just shut up.

        I want to move there now, dealing with a hackerspace full of vocal idiots right now, thinking of sticking knitting needles into my eardrums but they can still post to Slack

        1. My Fiancée is a Finn. Not particularly silent and strangely fixated on having the last word. Maybe she was kicked out for not fitting in back home..? If only I’d met a proper one. If only…

          1. Although we finns are known for tolerance of silence, I’ve also heard one story of terrified realization that it’s possibly to speak finnish both exhaling and inhaling, therefore nagging endlessly.

  2. Why the need for constant blabber? if there’s nothing to say, then don’t speak.
    That said, I always love myself a device that solves a problem that does not exist, well done! :)

  3. Hmm, as a Finn, that thing would have a very short but effective meeting with “Hellä” (Mr Gentle) my 5kg fine adjustment mallet. As said we Finns (at least some of us) would not consider silence awkward in any way, even sometimes may prefer it. :) But forced talking of nonsense annoys us very much. (At least myself)

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