HOWTO: glowing balloons that show air quality

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Over at Instructables, BB pal Eric Paulos and and his students Stacey Kuznetsov, George Davis, and Jian Cheung in Carnegie Mellon University's Living Environments Lab explain how to make illuminated balloons that change color based on the local air quality. Each balloon is outfitted with a tri-color LED, tiny air quality sesnsor, rechargeable battery, and a few other inexpensive components. I'd love to encounter these as I walk through the city at night! Air Quality Balloons


  1. I think I’d love to encounter any kind of glowing baloons as I walk through the city at night :)

  2. I’m guessing that that is Schenley Park.

    #2: I’m guessing someone cut a really ripe fart while sitting on the left bench.

  3. Based on the prices in their instructable, you’re looking at roughly $240-worth of colour changing balloons. I don’t think $40 a shot is inexpensive!

    While they are lovely and may even have a practical use, I don’t think they are an economically sound proposition for most people, however cool.

  4. neat–when i see a balloon that says the air quality in my neighborhood is bad, i can just move!

  5. It’s air pollution musical chairs! Turn your relaxing walk through the park into a blood-pressure-raising scramble to save yourself from carcinogens!

  6. Until they can ~float~ against the wind a-la everyones favorite clown Pennywise. . .I’m out.

  7. This reminds me of the technique of “continuous feedback” to improve quality in software: setting up a display that at all times tells you whether your software process is on track or not.

    Would the feedback from a bunch of air quality balloons distributed throughout a city make people more aware of and interested in reducing air pollution, or would it just become part of the background noise of the urban environment?

    The “Spare the Air Days” campaign in the SF Bay Area gives similar feedback, but in a far less visual and obvious way.

  8. Even non-techies should be skeptical about an “air quality” meter.

    Technically, you get to pick one of two sensors, and each reacts to a specific group of chemicals, not necessarily more strongly to worse chemicals, and, once you do your best to follow the instructables, not accurately.

    So it’s a cute demo that hints at the kinds of things that could be done when things improve by another factor of a hundred.

  9. BAROMETER, n.

    An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

    –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

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