Twitter Radio

Queen's University student reinterprets the online messaging service

A Queen’s University 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 Donegal, has invented a radio which tunes in to messages posted on social networking site, Twitter. 

McKeague, who is studying for his final year of BSc Music Technology at Queen’s, has created an interactive version of the Twitter experience that allows fans to listen to Twitter messages posted on the website in real time so that they can keep up to date with friends, celebrities and even complete strangers. 

Various pop icons and celebrities including Lily Allen, Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross can now be heard on ‘Happy Twitter’ and ‘Sad Twitter’, McKeague's prototype radio stations, based on the tone of their tweets.

TwitterRadio from Mark McKeague on Vimeo

'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,' explains McKeague, who studies at Queen's University's Sonic Arts Research Centre. 

'The Twitter service has millions of people registered, who are broadcasting countless messages every day. 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 into how we tuned into broadcasts in the past, and wondered if this could be applied to today's technology.'

McKeague uses an old analogue radio (as pictured above) to tune into his Twitter stations. '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 US presidential election campaigns also used Twitter as a publicity mechanism, including President Barack Obama. Although Twitter Radio is a dream gadget for many, McKeague 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. 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.'