Trending in China
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more

Chinese college says it will let algorithms assign roommates based on interests and habits

Nanjing University’s new system cheered by netizens, but can you trust college students?

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

In the West, college dorm rooms are mostly shared by just two students. But in China, most dorm rooms are crammed with 4 to 6 people, assigned only by their student numbers.

It means your odds of sharing living space with roommates you don’t get along with for four years is extremely high. Some of them may not want to turn on air conditioning in a 30˚C summer because they think it’s bad for their health. (This may or may not be from personal experience.)

That’s why netizens in China loved today’s announcement from Nanjing University, who says they have a solution to the roommate nightmare.

The university says it will use “recommendation algorithms” for new enrollments this year, assigning them with roommates with similar interests and living habits, a local newspaper reports.

The newspaper’s Weibo post drew more than 17,000 likes and thousands of comments, with most users praising the university and taking the chance to complain about their own horrible roommates. (Air conditioning is totally safe!)

The university explained in the report that it created a recommendation system similar to what’s used on NetEase Music, a popular Spotify-like music streaming app in China. It says results will be based on online questionnaires filled out by the new students about their daily routine, air conditioner habits (!!!) and personal hygiene.

China using artificial intelligence to grade homework

Recommender systems are a common use of machine learning technologies -- it’s how Amazon recommends more products to you, and also how Netflix figures out what you’re likely to watch next.

But users on Weibo point out that the data in this system might not be trustworthy, because it relies entirely on students being honest.

As one of the most liked user comments says, “who would say on the questionnaire that they don’t have good personal hygiene?”

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.