How Voice Mail Works

The Future of Voice Mail

cell phone
Voice-mail systems allow users to access messages -- even from other phones.
© Photographer: Franc Podgorsek | Agency: Dreamstime

Might voice mail one day read a caller's emotions to give the message recipient a heads-up? Could software and hardware come together to form unified communication systems that integrate all messaging technologies and put them at your fingertips?

The answer is yes, and such future voice mail technical advances are already in development.


Voice mail systems already are getting involved in politics, giving people the option of placing a campaign commercial on their voice mail greeting so whenever callers go to voice mail they're solicited to vote for a candidate. The greeting can be set to play for select friends or anyone from the receiver's address book who calls.

Many voice message service providers are focused on unifying the various electronic communications systems into integrated systems. Voice mail -- office voice mail, cell phone voice mail and residential voice mail -- will undoubtedly play a big role in that future.

Other technologies are focused on recognizing emotions in the voices of those who leave messages on their voice mail systems. One system, called Emotive Alert, has been under development at the University of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for several years.

The system allows users to decide which messages are the most urgent, helping them cut through the glut of electronic communications and be more efficient. It could learn to recognize basic moods, such as urgent, happy, formal or excited by chewing on variables such as speech rate and volume comparing it with a database and spitting out an opinion.

As communication systems become more integrated, it's a sure thing voice mail will remain part of the mix. After all, it deals in that most primal type of human communication -- speech, digitizes it and feeds it into the electronic world we live and work in today. Voice mail, one of the first high-tech messaging systems, is here to stay.

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