Speaker ‘Stun Gun’ Aims To Combat China’s Dancing Grannies

One of the more popular social activities in China is group dancing in public squares. Often the pastime of many middle-aged and older women, participants are colloquially referred to as “dancing grannies.” While the activity is relatively wholesome, some dancers have begun to draw the ire of their neighbourhoods with their loud music and attempts to dominate the use of public parks and recreational areas.

Naturally, a technological solution sprung up promising to solve the problem. The South China Morning Post has reported on a “stun gun” device which claims to neutralise speakers from a distance, in an effort to shut down dance gatherings. The device created a huge stir on social media, as well as many questions about how it could work. It’s simpler, and a bit less cool, than you think.

A Sequel To The TV-B-Gone

Image sourced from a Taobao listing for a anti-square dance device. Note the device is reported as capable of interfering with common outdoor PA systems but not other types of speakers.

The devices are hard to find concrete details on, particularly in the English world. Listings on Western-facing websites like eBay and Aliexpress have been deleted with remarkable speed. It only adds to the mystery around a device that can supposedly shut down audio device at long range.

However, dig deep enough, arm yourself with some translation apps, and talk to a few friends in China, and you’ll learn the truth. The devices are not some all-powerful stun gun that can blast speakers into submission. Instead, they are but simple infrared remote controls, built into a familiar flashlight-style housing. Combining a powerful infrared LED and a lens to focus the beam means the devices can shoot infrared signals over 50 m in ideal conditions. It’s then a simple matter of modulating the infrared LED with the right signal. Have the LED match the “power off” command used by remote controls for the common portable PA speakers used by the dancing grannies, and you’re in business.

It’s the same concept as the famous TV-B-Gone. Essentially a one-button universal remote that launched over a decade ago, the TV-B-Gone had an infrared transmitter and simply spewed out “off” commands for a wide variety of popular televisions when you held the button down. These speaker shutdown devices use exactly the same methodology. The only differences are that they fire codes to shut off portable speakers, not TVs, and they’re built in a package designed to work at longer range.

Funnily enough, Hackaday featured a very similar device years ago. It combined a simple TV-B-Gone infrared code sender with a 1 W IR LED packed into a compact torch housing. It was designed for TVs, not PA systems, but the concept is the same.

The devices are most readily found on Taobao, such as these listings we turned up in the last few days. However, it was the deleted Aliexpress listings that were most honest about how the devices worked, noting they only worked with outdoor PAs that used infrared remote controls.

Spinning the lens fitting can throw a narrow beam a long way or a wider beam a shorter distance.

Countermeasures are obvious once one knows how the devices work. A simple strip of opaque tape over the PA’s infrared receiver would be enough to render the devices ineffective, at the cost of losing the functionality of one’s own remote.

The devices will likely remain hard to find in the West. Government authorities look dimly upon anything marketed as a “jammer” or “interference” device, even if these are really just odd remote controls. Whether they’ve been involved, or eBay and Aliexpress have just been proactive about removing listings is unclear. Regardless, the market for these device outside of China is likely small.

However, within China, there’s been much talk on social media of finally wresting back control from leagues of dancing grannies that take over neighbourhoods on the regular. Whether these devices prove effective at bringing peace to neighbourhoods is unclear; it seems just as likely they may inflame tensions instead.

In any case, if you’ve got a better idea for a device that could shut down a broader spectrum of amplifiers, share it below. Alternatively, give us your best solutions to the conflict between the grannies and their neighbors. Peace in China depends on it!

[Thanks to Dashiell Dunn for assistance in researching this article.]

73 thoughts on “Speaker ‘Stun Gun’ Aims To Combat China’s Dancing Grannies

    1. Obnoxious people tend to simply not listen and continue to be obnoxious.

      I was expecting a bluetooth jammer, or something like a microphone and speaker setup that plays back the same music with a slight delay to mess with the dancers rhythms. The last option would require a large speaker, and be very obvious, so be ready to defend yourself against the mob of angry grannies.

      1. Did you ask them?

        Seems pretty obnoxious to hi-jack somebody music without first at least asking them to turn it down.

        Anyway problem solved with some masking tape or similar….

        1. Did they ask everyone in the vicinity if it was ok to disrupt their peaceful time in the park?

          Seems pretty obnoxious to blast loud music without at least asking around to see if it is ok.

          Anyway, problem solved with an IR laser to shine through masking tape.

          1. Exactly, they just do not care about the rest. I’ve tried talking to people like these. And they just do not care, they think their rights are above everyone’s else. They do not know that their right stop where the rights of the others start. That is why the laws protect against loud music. You can listen and party, and do whatever you want UNTIL it starts affecting other peoples lives.

            Go talk to them and 100% of time they’ll just say, “It’s my right to do whatever I want”… Tried it, 100% of the time I get that answer, I reply “Well it’s my right to be in peace in my house, or be at work, etc. your are interfering with that, I’m just asking you to listen on a volume that only you will listen, I’m not asking you to turn it off”… Reply to that “I will not shut it off, I want to listen to my music and bad luck”..

            These people are id…, they do not understand by reason nor anything. They just care about themselves, they do not care if you had a hard week/day at work and just want to rest, sleep, relax, etc… They want to keep you up all night and keep blasting you their music for the rest of day, because that is what they think “wow, music is so loud and great, everyone should listen to it, I’m sure we are the envy of the block!”….

            You know, I once got hold of the telephone number of a neighbor (they gave it to me to call them if the music was loud to ask to them to lower it, I called.. they even made it HIGHER after I called)… What I did in the morning after the party was over (they stopped at 8 AM), I called them at about 11 AM, and woke them up… They got UPSET because they wanted to sleep and couldn’t believe they got woken up. These people are like this, they only think about themselves.

            Irox and Gravis, you guys are probably the ones that blast out music….

    2. >”Most of them are the products of the Red Guard era, they don’t respect society or the environment,” a young Chinese resident of Guiyang, who did not want to be named, told the Guardian. “Square dancing is a problem left over from history. Many elderly people feel that the whole China is built by their generation. They have the absolute voice and status. We young people have done nothing, and of course are not qualified to question them.”

        1. You can’t say you aren’t aligning with any side while calling one side things like obnoxious, cowards, or propaganda while saying nothing similarly of the other side … you can’t say you are impartial while showing partiality, you can’t have it both ways.

          1. Yeah, possibly some unconscious bias for the people being attacked, hard to avoid, but I wouldn’t say I “align” with them…. (big difference between sympathy and alignment). And if I did align with them, wouldn’t I be “align dancing”?

            I used the term ‘obnoxious’ because that’s how others are characterizing dancing old people, the term ‘cowardice’ as that was the behavior (somebody else called out) that was being ‘defended’. And the term ‘propaganda’ because that seems to accurately characterize the rebuttal to the ‘cowardice’ claim (i.e. old people are entitled you can’t talk with them) – and also see Dude’s post below which also considers this may be propaganda (aimed to shutting down large gatherings).

        2. Then again, it may be a manufactured conflict, since any independent and uncontrolled mass gathering of people represents a political hazard to the communist state.

          There’s talk about banning the square dancing outside of scheduled events with approved supervision by the government.

          1. Give the scant information available to us, that does seem the most plausible explanation I’ve heard so far. During Argentina’s military junta, Tango dancing was outlawed to stop people gathering in large numbers.

          2. Ladies and gentlemen, keep in mind if you will that people here are using terms like, perhaps and maybe and could and might. These people lack concrete facts and you’re reading a stream of whim from their head. These grannies consider themselves the prime revolutionaries. They believe they built china up from nothing. They celebrate and party constantly and are a social menace given their noise. Regardless of the intensity of their support for the CPC what they’re doing is criminal noise pollution.

          3. > their support for the CPC

            One thing that is constant with communist regimes is that the previous revolutionaries become a liability for the state because they still hold the idealistic and naive views that were used to indoctrinate and recruit them. Remember the adage, “The revolution always eats its own children.”

            Progressives in due time become conservatives as the political atmosphere changes.

    3. Right I mean they are gonna figure out what is going on and put some black tape over the IR sensor and the next time someone walks by with a flashlight they are gonna get pepper sprayed. Never mind it was a regular flashlight, thanks for ruining someone else’s day.

    1. That design counts in the millions with the variable distance single lens and is not very efficient. When you zoom or widen the unit density remains constant so just get the most light out of it on wide. You would feel cheated if the beam dimmed as it got wider. Lots of light leaves the emitter and hits the black insides instead of being at the bottom of hyper-parabolic rocket nozzle shaped reflector, no lens at all. It a useless feature of marketing. It’s hard to find the good design optic anymore.

      1. I have one like the picture but much longer.

        The lens is where the flat disk of glass normally is.

        As you zoom in (narrower beam) the intensity increases.

        Even if the intensity didn’t increase then this feature would be good for some use cases.

        I live in Australia and bush walk in the wild at night where everything wants to kill you. Having a narrow beam allows you to focus the light on a potential predator without backscatter light bouncing back from the surrounding area.

        This improves contrast and allows predators to be identified much faster and more importantly, from a greater distance.

  1. So in China there are over 264 million people that are over 60 years old and some of those (mostly the grannies) want to dance in public squares. So lets half that number and say that 10% of the population of China wants to dance in public squares. Maybe the solution is a “silent disco”, where all the “dancing grannies” all wear wireless headphones and bogey on down from dawn to dusk.

    1. I’m just trying to imagine the swarms of diminutive Chinese grandmothers being judged so loathsome that not only does this thing exist, but it’s being commercially produced.

      It’s kind of “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” in reverse.

      I’ve actually spent time in Chinese parks. I’ve spent time in American parks. The American parks are empty and wasted in comparison. We could probably use some dancing grannies, even if it means putting up with old Tony Orlando songs early in the morning.

  2. If the Chinese government was actually concerned about them, the grannies would quickly be taken for “re-education” along with ethnic minorities and religious groups. Big benefit of a socialist state. The media would deny it happened, the eventually run a few clips showing how happy they were to be able to sit and knit all day.

    Let them be. And if their music is too loud, but then a hearing loop antenna instead of a sound system.

    1. If you’re using an ultrasonic weapon, what’s the point of blasting Justin Bieber? They won’t be able to hear it; it’s ultrasonic. Or are you implying that his voice is so high pitched anyway that it might as well be an ultrasonic weapon?

      1. Not sure I’m right, but I always ASSumed that the highly directional ultrasonic beam of sound caused your skull to vibrate and then the 3rd, 5th, 7th or 9th etc. harmonic was within the audible frequency range of human hearing (~ 20 Hz to ~20 kHz). And that mechanical vibration was detected by the hair cells inside the inner ear and converted to an electrical signal for the brain to process.

        1. The harmonic frequencies appear higher from the original tone. Sub-harmonics are difficult to make unless you target a known resonance or a highly non-linear system that can demodulate the carrier to lower frequencies.

          Which is how they actually do ultrasonic sound projection: you cross two beams that alternate in phase, which is modulated so the interference causes a lower frequency to appear when an object is placed in the correct spot along the beam path.

      2. “Ultrasonic speakers”, in this case, produce 2 ultrasonic fequencies that, when they mix together, have a difference frequency in the normal audio range. The advantage is that the ultrasonic frequencies have short wavelengths and are easy to focus. You wind up with something called the “audio spotlight”. I think it was developed at MIT’s Media Lab and is commercial now. They work quite well.

        1. You can only hear the difference frequency if you can hear the higher frequencies. It’s kinda like AM radio: the average of the signal at audio frequencies is basically zero until you demodulate the signal. Once you cut the lower part of the waveform off through some non-linear system (a diode), the average becomes biased and starts to change by the original audio signal.

          The trick of the audio spotlight is to use the non-linear properties of the interface between air and some object to effect the same demodulation.

          1. To get to the “scull”, I would assume you first have to get through the “scin” and everything else that’s in the way.

            In reality, the non-linearity occurs at the boundary layer between air and whatever solid object. You can put a piece of paper in the beam crossing point and the sound appears to emanate from that.

  3. During my trips around China, I came across the dancing grannies and group singing complete with musical accompaniment. It was nice to see people gathering for exercise and social interaction, something rare in the US. Not at all annoying, but I don’t live there.

  4. Funny, I carry around my old Palm 3C for the purpose of omni-remote and killing obnoxious TVs.

    It never fails – I will visit one of my favorite places to eat at about 11am on a Tuesday and there won’t be anyone there except me – and then some dildo will come in and lose his/her ability to act like a rational human at a replay of some sports-ball even from two weeks ago.

    I discreetly whip out the Palm, and turn the TV off / different channel. Problem solved, peace and quiet resumed, and no more dingleberry clapping and banging on the bar in a nice quiet place much to the obvious annoyance of the few customers and staff. There is a time for such antics.

    1. Wow, you start off with a couple of huge assumptions: everyone has great people skills, everyone is tripping over themselves to make sure everyone around them is happy about everything all the time.

      Then you go on to assume that turning off a TV means they’re going to turn off fires while the gas is running, or turn off fire alarms, etc.

      Have you ever done something without then going and doing a bunch of crazy extreme stuff? Yes? Just pretend that other people do the same.

    2. Or you can get a phone which has an IR emitter, like many Xiaomi’s. They have a companion app that lets you pick a manufacturer and then it downloads codes. Mine also has a headphone Jack and an SD card slot, take that, Apple

  5. We don’t have this problem in Australia, the police have no problem at all with beating up elderly women without a lawful reason for doing so. Personally I am not convinced that this dancing granny phenomena is a real problem but I like the “silent disco” idea that somebody else has already suggested, because any solution that is a form of conflictual interaction is no solution at all.

  6. Ok I did read all the comments ,some people are fine with the device and some not. I think each situation is different to simply generalize it as good of bad. Aside this, someone knows the IR CODES for this relatively new portable speakers? Actually I just need the POWER OFF commands, I did some search on google with no avail. I want a similar device to defend myself against my neighbor’s music,and no , words not work anymore here, I tried several times :( and authorities are a joke here.

  7. Okay so I thought of an idea for a new product. Hockey puck in size with an IR sensor on top if it senses more than 2 tvbgone codes in in row it set sets off a 130 decibel siren. Perimeter mines to catch the perpetrator. Imagine if the same company that made these tvbgone flashlights made these profit at both ends.

    1. So instead of someone harmlessly turning off TVs (gasp the horror!), you’d prefer to cause permanent hearing damage to everyone in the vicinity. Wow, what a better option! Compared to the TVBGone folks, you’re the bigger jerk in every way. Congrats.

  8. This whole fad is super annoying. Not only do they take over parks and small green spaces with sheer numbers, but they blast the music at ear-splitting levels, and often start very early in the morning. I had one attempted “dance leader” or whatever they call themselves roll up and turn on pumping dance music at 4:30am in the field next to my rural “dacha” a couple of years ago, I guess hoping to attract a group following. An angry confrontation while the project was still in it’s infancy saw him relocate, or disappear.

  9. Solutions were requested…

    EMP the whole area. Yes, there will be collateral, it’ll be complicated and very expensive and you’ll probably go to jail – but briefly there will be silence.

    Or

    Monster truck with public address system. Be more obnoxious and maybe crush their gear.

  10. If the speaker system is using radio mics, couldn’t one maybe override what the organiser is saying?

    “Taiwan is its own country, and president Xi look like Whinnie the Pooh” should get them shut down quickly enough.

  11. My question is, couldn’t an IR laser be used to set the speaker cone itself
    on fire? Not that I’d want to see the grannies not have their fun, but
    everything in moderation and certainly not at 4 AM.
    Just think of a purely hypothetical situation.
    It seems it would take less energy to set paper on fire than it would take
    to vaporize the voice coil. Plenty of youtube videos of people using lasers
    to burn things. The sad thing is, people take the law into their own hands.
    There is no civility or grace left in the world.

    1. > There is no civility or grace left in the world.

      Taking over a basketball court? Grace? Civil?

      How would the grannies feel if the player dribbled balls outside their homes? Bounced them off their apartments – I mean, they have no basketball court to use… Sorta odd the elderly learning manners from youth. Oh wait. They aren’t learning it at all.

      Only 1 answer. Marshall law for everyone for 30 days. Curfew but for work-travel & 1/2 hr to get groceries. Then, work it out themselves, or 90 days next time. That’s the Red Way. Warn them, then mow then down and turn off their internet. Just like Waco. (I’d better shutup or they’ll recind my credit card and stop selling me shoes & socks.)

  12. I like the idea that Grannies get outside, breathe fresh air, get some exercise and get together in a social group, it’s fantastic for their physical and mental health, if you think about what happens elsewhere a lot; sitting inside watching TV feeling old and depressed.

    They just need to set a limit on when and how loud so it doesn’t bother others. I read one group of grannies changed to bluetooth headphones after a dispute which is a good idea.

    1. And this is the crux of the matter. They are loud AF.

      And too too early also. There needs to be some middle of the road on this.

      And I also agree there would be no reasoning with them.

      But what do I know? Only 20+ yrs of doing business on mainland and HK there…

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