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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Simple technology, stunning outcome (2)

By Liu Meng (Global Times)

08:28, January 12, 2012

Thirst for knowledge

The idea to set up the drinking-fountain microblog arose from the huge size of Chen's laboratory.

"Before, I would have to walk to the fountain to know whether the water was ready to drink or not," Chen said.

"It was always such a nuisance."

In a discussion with his research group members, he put out an idea: design a program that can send messages describing the state of the fountain.

"All of us are addicted to microblogs, so we didn't feel like it was a big deal ," He Dan, a 22-year-old graduate student in the group, told the Global Times, "At first we were only going to use it in the lab."

The idea was also endorsed by Pan Gang, associate professor of CCNT and head of the research group.

Group members worked together to design this program, which involves placing a video camera before the indicator light of the fountain.

Whenever the light changes color, a sensor sends information to a computer, which subsequently publishes it on its microblog.

The postings are generated at random from a pool of messages that Chen admits were mostly inspired by Japanese anime. According to He, one of the most popular sentences is "Bad boy! I'm out of water now!"

"I want this fountain to demonstrate the potential power of technology, how it can really make life easier," Pan told the Global Times.

"We hope to make the entire system smarter and integrate new functions gradually," Chen said. "

In the future it will be a veritable water-dispensing robot."

Pan said he hopes the fountain will be able to talk with people one day, answering questions about weather and other common topics.

The fountain, which is female, used to have a "boyfriend" in the form of another blue fountain in the same laboratory.

They "broke up" recently, however, after the boy fountain was moved away.

"Many students in our building come for a drink in our laboratory, so the fountain is out of

water frequently," He told the Global Times.

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