Mar. 4, 2009 A Queen's University Belfast student has come up with a unique way of keeping track of what people across the world are up to throughout the day.
Mark McKeague, 20, from Culdaff in County Donegal, has invented a radio which tunes in to and broadcasts messages posted on social networking site, Twitter.
Various pop icons and celebrities including Lily Allen, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Ashton Kutcher can now be heard on ‘radio stations’ such as ‘Happy Twitter’ and ‘Sad Twitter’ based on the tone of their tweets.
Mark, who is studying for his final year of BSc Music Technology in the School of Music and Sonic Arts at Queen’s, has created an interactive version that allows fans to listen to Twitter messages posted on the website in real time so they can keep up to date with friends, celebrities and even complete strangers.
Mark uses an old fashioned radio to receive the tweets. He has organised them into stations such as ‘Happy Twitter’ and ‘Sad Twitter’ based on the tone of the messages.
He said: “I came up with the idea when thinking about the amount of information that is being broadcast on the internet, through numerous social networks and personal sites. There is so much information being broadcast and most of it goes unread and unnoticed.
“I wanted to find a new way to use this information. I looked to how we tuned into broadcasts in the past, and wondered if this could be applied to today's technology. The Twitter service has millions of people registered, who are broadcasting countless messages every day.
“I found the radio when I was at home for Christmas, and I knew it was perfect with its old fashioned style and feel. I took the radio apart and added an Arduino micro-controller to pick up movement on the tuning dial of the radio.
“I also added a connection to the radio's speaker. This allowed me to connect the radio to the computer. I could then download tweets and send them to the radio which means the users can tune into spoken tweets.”
Several 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns also used Twitter as a publicity mechanism, including President Barack Obama.
Mark said: “Twitter has been growing more and more popular recently with high profile users such as Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross and this has really suited what I was trying to achieve with the project.”
Although Twitter Radio is a dream gadget for many, Mark says it isn’t ready to hit the shelves just yet.
“I don’t have any plans to commercialize yet as the radio is still very young in terms of its conception and design and at the moment is set up as an installation piece,” said Mark.
“I'm continuing work in this area of Interaction design in my portfolio module this semester, and would be interested in developing the radio further.”
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