Stirling University computing science experts have embarked on a project to turn computers into sophisticated internet telephones.
But Ken Turner and Evan Magill, professors of computing science, hope to improve the quality of Basic "voice over internet" applications.
They have won backing from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Canadian-based Mitel Networks Corporation. The £167,000 Accent (Advanced Call Control Enhancing Network Technologies) project will exploit changes in the way telephone services are provided.
New developments mean calls can be placed over computer networks such as the internet, with the voice carried in the same way as data, pictures or webpages.
An ordinary computer can be used as a kind of programmable telephone, controlling how calls are handled. Professor Turner said the project opened up many exciting possibilities for people to programme their calls.
"Suppose someone phones you at work when you're busy. If the caller is a friend, you might want to play a recorded message saying you will call back. A colleague who calls could be pointed at a webpage that lists your meetings for the day. Customers could be allowed to leave a message or to interrupt you, depending on how urgent the call is. The boss would definitely be connected."