Brain-Scanning Software Checks If Your Brain Is Busy Before Giving You Notifications

Friday, 07 August 2015 - 12:28PM
Weird Science
Neuroscience
Friday, 07 August 2015 - 12:28PM
Brain-Scanning Software Checks If Your Brain Is Busy Before Giving You Notifications
It's the age of social media, constant contact, and multitasking, to the point that we're bombarded with a steady streamof notifications seemingly all day, every day. But now, for those of us who would love some peace and quiet, there's a new software that scans your brain activity in order to gauge whether your mind is available to take calls/texts/social media notifications. 

In a new study from Tufts University, computer scientists reported a software project called Phylter, which monitors your brain activity and screens out low-priority distractions while the mind is occupied with an important or challenging task.

"Imagine a system where you have a little dial and you can tell it, 'Now I'm kind of busy, so leave me alone,'" study leader Robert Jacob told New Scientist. This sounds convenient enough, but Jacob's team aims take it a step further and create software that will tell that dial to cease and desist without the user actively doing anything.

Phylter relies on functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIS) technology in order to measure brain activity. A band with a monitor is attached to the user's head, and the monitor beams light into the user's brain. That light then reveals changes in blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, allowing the software's algorithm to conclude whether the brain is busy with a task or not.

For this experiment, the Phylter software was connected to Google Glass while users played a video game. While they played the video game, they were given a series of notifications, and taught the algorithm which notifications were important by choosing which ones to open and respond to. Once the algorithm learns which notifications are high-priority, it can filter (sorry) out the pings that can wait until the brain is no longer busy.

This technology could have many different applications in the future, and the researchers envision it being used for a myriad of daily tasks; for example, they suggested that Phylter could suggest a simpler route on the GPS if the user's brain activity suggests that he or she is preoccupied. The idea of a phone being able to monitor one's brain activity has a little bit of a dystopian, technology-controls-everything-about-our-lives-even-more-than-it-does-now feel to it, but there's no denying that this would be more convenient.

Via Popular Science.
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