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A low-tech sensing system for particulate pollution


We present an ultra low-cost sensing system, which enables participants to see and reflect on the particulates in their air. Drawing on prior work in paper computing, we introduce small sensors for particulate pollution that can be easily assembled from common paper materials for less than $1 USD, and mailed by regular postal service to residents of entire neighborhoods, cities, or geographic regions. Recipients collect particulate samples using these sensors and mail them back to a central location, where the particles are viewed and analyzed via a microscope. The data, which includes rich images of actual air pollution particles, can then be broadcast to larger audiences. This paper details the design of our system and its deployment with a local air quality activist community. We conclude by highlighting the tradeoffs between high-tech and low-tech sensing, and suggest opportunities for tangible interaction to support rich, new ways of seeing our environment. Copyright 2014 ACM.

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