The software lowered the perceived difculty and

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Unformatted text preview: alized tasks, the answer is: unquestionably. Consider Lockheed Martin’s HAILSS (Human Alerting and Interruption Logistics-Surface Ship) system. In much the way that Bestcom interposes itself between the phone system and an office worker, HAIL-SS keeps an eye on the sailors operating an Aegis naval weapons system and mediates the many alerts that Aegis produces. In combat simulations, HAIL-SS cut the number of interruptions by 50 to 80 percent, allowing sailors to handle critical alerts up to twice as quickly. The software lowered the perceived difficulty and stressfulness of the job by one quarter. The U.S. Navy now plans to deploy HAIL-SS throughout the fleet. No comparable studies have yet been done in the office environment, however. Even with Bestcom diverting callers to voice mail and squelching e-mail alerts, Horvitz was interrupted 14 times in the course of our five-hour interview. Two fi re alarms, a FedEx deliveryman and numerous colleagues poking their head into the office were merely examples of a large class of disruptions that will never disappear, because they benefit the interrupter. Vertegaal is optimistic nonetheless. “By opening up these new sources of information about how available someone is, people will naturally adapt and use them to apply existing social rules of etiquette,” he predicts. “So just by virtue of letting people know when you’re busy, you’ll get fewer interruptions.” W. Wayt Gibbs is senior writer. MORE TO EXPLORE Attentive User Interfaces. S pecial section. Edited by Roel Vertegaal in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 46, No. 3, pages 30–72; March 2003. Learning and Reasoning about Interruption. Eric Horvitz and Johnson Apacible. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Multimodal Interfaces, November 2003. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Progress and Future Directions of Adaptive Driver Assistance Research. Washington, D.C., May 2004. Available online at w ww.volpe.dot.gov/ opsad/saveit/ A variety of relevant technical articles are available online at h ttp://interruptions.net SCIENTIFIC A MERIC A N KC ARMSTRONG COPYRIGHT 2004 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. 61...
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