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Trial Android app promises to help you manage your stress

Researchers in the UK claim to have developed a smart app to help people cope better with the stress associated with electronic communications.

An MA student and her lecturer at the University of Portsmouth's School of Computing say they have created smartphone software capable of analysing and colour coding messages to pre-empt and prepare readers for potential discomfort triggers.

Texts and emails containing content perceived to be negative will be flagged as red, with positive communications being highlighted as green. Neutral messages will blue.

Depending on how the person is feeling, they will be able to confront difficult communications immediately, or reserve them for a time when they are feeling mentally stronger, according to Louise Chambers and Dr Mohamed Gaber, the pair behind the content filtering system.

"The application works by learning from past messages and how the user perceives the content as being positive, negative or objective," project head Dr Gaber said.

"The ultimate objective... is to make the user aware of the negative content they receive so they are able to manage their stress in the best possible way," he added.

The software arrives pre-programmed, with users able to personalise the evaluation of their future messages by applying custom flags that match their own perceptions and feelings.

Not everyone was convinced of the usefulness of the app. Pamela Briggs of the British Psychological Society, for one, was decidedly 'blue' when it came to the invention of an electronic equivalent of the bold red headers that adorn unpaid bills.

"It is reasonable to assume that some kind of colour coding is viable in this context...but the bigger question is whether or not such an app will genuinely let us manage stress more effectively," she ventured.

"Imagine that you get a ‘bad' message from a boss, husband, or friend - the researchers suggest that you might want to put this to one side, to open at a more appropriate moment, but stress is often made worse by the anticipate of an unpleasant event," she added.

The app, which has been tested on Android OS devices so far, is built around previous research compiled by the Eindhoven University of Technology into the "sentiment analysis" of electronic messaging - a system called SeniCorr.

Dr Gaber and Ms Chambers are expected to launch their software at the 16th KES conference, held in San Sebastián, Spain this September.