Commuters on a train to London looking at their mobile phones and iPad.
Photograph by John Keeble — Getty Images
By Claire Groden
September 3, 2015

Spanish researchers want to determine when smartphone users are bored, the better to pelt people with content and disturb any blank-minded zen left in the modern world.

The researchers, three of whom are associated with Telefonica Research and the fourth with Germany’s University of Stuttgart, have developed a machine-learning program that detects when Android phone owners are bored, Nieman Lab reports. In a paper to be presented at a computing conference in Japan next week, the researchers write:

Being bored is also correlated with more phone use: the screen was less likely to be covered (which, for example, happens when the phone is stowed away), more apps were used, the last unlocking and checking for new notifications happened more recently, and the volume of data uploaded was higher when our participants were bored. Interestingly, the amount of data download and battery drain were lower when people were bored.

The researchers created an Android app that detected boredom, and suggested the user open a BuzzFeed News app when he or she seemed bored. People who were believed to be bored were more likely to click the link and spent more time on the site than those sent the notification randomly.

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