A new system called Phylter screens out low-priority distractions when it senses that you’re focused on a more important task

Software checks if your brain is busy before it interrupts you

Not now, I’m thinking (Image: Stephen Simpson/Rex Shutterstock)

“SORRY I missed your call. My brain said I was busy.”

A new software project, nicknamed Phylter, checks on your mental state before letting emails or text messages through to your device. The software screens out these low-priority distractions when it senses that you are focused on another, more important 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’,” says Robert Jacob, a computer scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. His team want to set that dial without the user having to do it themselves.

Phylter relies on functional near-infrared spectroscopy to read brain activity. A band worn around the forehead beams light into the head and measures what’s reflected. This reveals changes in blood flow in the prefrontal cortex …

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