An overflowing inbox is enough to send the average phone user into a meltdown but now they could get a helping hand to reduce stress levels thanks to a handy app. Designed by the University of Portsmouth's School of Computing, the app uses colour coding to help sort the bad messages from those that are more neutral.
Incoming messages are automatically colour coded green for positive, red
for negative and blue for neutral, arming users with more information
before they open a message. Users can also self-label incoming text
messages to suit their needs.
Despite the creators' intentions to reduce the stress levels of smartphone
users, experts fear that avoidance of negative messages could, in itself, be stressful.
The app has been tested on phones running the Android OS and will make its debut in September at the 16th International Conference on Knowledge-Based and Intelligent Information and Engineering Systems in Spain.
Speaking to BBC News, lead researcher Dr Mohamed Gaber, said: "The application works by learning from past messages how the user perceives the content as being positive, negative or objective.
"The ultimate objective…is to make the user aware of the negative contents they receive so they are able to manage their stress in the best possible way."
He goes on to add that the app will help users better manage their stress levels:
"For example, if most of what is received from social media websites
by a user on a particular day was negative, it is important that the user attempts to take an action in order to not get stressed, especially if this may affect the individual's performance at work and/or their behaviour at home."Inspiration for the app
The team at University of Portsmouth's School of Computing said that they were inspired to conduct further research into the area as a result of research conducted by Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Here the SentiCorr team created a system "for automated sentiment analysis on multilingual user-generated content from various social media and e-mails" which identified content as neutral, positive or negative using colour coding.A question of trust
Psychologist Pamela Briggs, from the British Psychological Society, argues that the success of the app will depend on whether users can trust it to correctly interpret messages.
"Researchers are increasingly able to use various kinds of linguistic analysis to determine message content and so it is reasonable to assume that some kind of colour coding is viable in this context," she said.
"But the bigger question is whether or not such an app will genuinely let us manage stress more effectively."
She goes on to argue that stress is actually dissipated by tackling a problem head-on and worsened by anticipating an unpleasant event.
"What if we decide to delete the 'bad' message rather than to read it - and then spend several days worrying about it? I'd like to see some behavioural research on the stress claims made by the authors before we can assume that it might make our lives easier."Apps are changing the world
Other revolutionary apps include the app that reads sign language. Members of the deaf community will soon be able to sign into their computers
and handsets and their signs will automatically be translated into written text via a Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT).
Developed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, the university hopes that the app will improve employment prospects for deaf people. It is also intended to help this group communicate more effectively with their hearing peers and colleagues.
"The user signs into a standard camera integrated into a laptop, netbook, Smartphone or other portable device such as a Tablet. Their signs are immediately translated into text which can be read by the person they are conversing with," said Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, a lecturer in computing science at the university.
"The intent is to develop an application - an 'app' in Smartphone terms - that is easily accessible and could be used on different devices including Smartphones, laptops
The new technology will recognise several sign language variants including British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton and can be personalised to suit individual needs. It is set to be launched by 2013.