We've seen some truly disturbing things in our time -- rapper Charles Hamilton's sampling of a Sonic the Hedgehog tune for a hip-hop song; the Big Dog; the MP3 player, to name but a few. None of them, however, prepared us for the horror that is this creepy talking robot mouth.
It's easy to mistake it for some sort of futuristic gadget designed for amorous grown-ups from the Jetson era, or the last remnant of that bloke who accidentally left hissitting in a bar. You'll be pleased to hear the repulsive thing was designed by engineers at Japan's Kagawa University to help the hearing-impaired improve their speech articulation.
The system comprises an air pump, artificial vocal cords, a resonance tube, a nasal cavity and a microphone connected to a sound analyser. These give it the power of speech and the ability to mimic anything it hears.
Researchers have reportedly begun supplying the robot mouth with the voices of both hearing-impaired and non-hearing-impaired subjects and producing a sound map of the differences. With this map, the robot can be used to analyse the speech of hearing-impaired subjects. Should their pronunciations be deemed incorrect, it can interactively demonstrate the articulatory motion of the vocal organs necessary to pronounce any given word.
We're not exactly experts in this field, but those responsible for this aesthetic atrocity seem to have forgotten the tongue -- which could probably explain the mouth's decidedly unhappy expression. We hear that because of this, when researchers switch the lights off, the robot mouth can be heard to plaintively moan, "Kill me, kill me."
Ultimately, it's not as terrifying as we originally thought, but it's still pretty disturbing. You can learn more about the system and how it works by reading this article in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology or watching the video below. Don't have nightmares.