Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Student gives voice to Twitter

Mark McKeague
Mark McKeague with his new invention
A Queen's University student has come up with a unique way of keeping up to date with one of the world's most popular social networking sites.

Mark McKeague, 20, from Culduff in County Donegal, has invented a radio which tunes into and broadcasts messages posted on Twitter.

Mark uses an old fashioned radio to receive the tweets (messages).

The computerised messages are then read out on 'stations' such as Happy Twitter and Sad Twitter depending on their tone.

Listeners can tune in to hear the posts of celebrity Twitter users such as Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Lily Allen.

"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," Mark said.

"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 student found an old-fashioned radio when he was home for Christmas and knew it would be perfect.

"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," he explained.

Twitter made headlines in January, providing the first pictures of downed US Airways flight 1549 which landed on the Hudson river.

The site has also received much publicity from US President Barack Obama being among its devotees.

The messages, known as tweets, are text-based posts in response to the question "What are you doing?" and can be up to 140 characters in length.

However, Twitter Radio is unlikely to hit the shelves just yet.

"I don't have any plans to commercialise 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," Mark said.

"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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