Contact: Emotive Alert

Spam is a pesky problem. It wreaks havoc on e-mail in-boxes, instant messaging environments, and even cell phones. What's next in line to feel the wrath of spam? Try voice mail spam.

Zeynep Inanoglu and Ron Caneel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have designed a software program called Emotive Alert that gauges the mood of the person calling you to help recipients of voice mail determine which messages are most important.

Once installed, the software listens to incoming calls and sends recipients a text message that labels the message as emotionally happy, excited, urgent, or formal.

How does Emotive Alert detemine if a caller is happy or sad? It extracts the distribution of volume, pitch, and speech rate and compares them to "acoustical fingerprints" representing various emotional states.

Experts say there may be a downside to this software, in the form of voice mail spam. If spammers can find a way to spam a person with their own e-mail address, chances are it won't be difficult for them to figure out how to rank it as an urgent message, one that needs to be listened to first. Amy Corr

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