Discover has this interesting article which, among other things, highlights a new experimental program from Microsoft called BusyBody which detects how concentrated you are when you are using your computer.
If you are really focused then it can decide to allow interruptions (like IM and email notices) through or to block them when you are highly focused on the task at hand:
“Computers can learn to detect different levels of concentration on their own. That’s the premise behind BusyBody, a new software package under development at Microsoft. The software is designed to sense the “cost of interruption” at any given point in a user’s interaction with the machine. When you’re surfing idly through the blogosphere, the cost of interruption is low. When you’re cramming to finish a report, fielding 10 different instant messages from friends might be too costly.
BusyBody learns these states by watching multiple levels of activity: everything from the number of mouse clicks per minute to the number of windows open and the time of day. Microphones allow the software to sense when you are engaged in conversation. At the outset, as BusyBody monitors shifting behavior, it occasionally queries you about the interruption cost at that particular moment. Then it looks for telltale patterns in all the data and determines your focus mode on its own.”
So long as it doesn’t send a report to the boss, this sounds cool!