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June 12, 2006

Neighbourhood Satellites


Environment-Sensing Adventures in the City

As we move through the city, mobile devices allow us to enjoy remote networking and immersion in personal entertainment. These preoccupations, however, lessen our sensitivity to what is happening directly around us, and often we learn about our own environmental conditions through mediated sources. What if mobile technology could reconnect us to our surroundings by observing environmental data directly, data that had been obscured from us before?

Neighbourhood Satellites--by Myriel Milicevic--consists of handheld sensing devices, powered by light, which enable people to monitor their local environment in a playful way, combining physical exploration and real-world data with digital gameplay. Each satellite monitors air quality, cellular signals, and light levels. The data it collects is presented in three different modes. ‘Status’ mode simply displays the current conditions. In ‘game’ mode the satellite leads a parallel existence inside a small video screen, navigating amongst the offending pollutants to be analysed. Its orientation mirrors the position of the satellite in your hand as you capture specimens and avoid self-contamination.

Greater pollution produces more challenging gameplay. You may have to go elsewhere to find cleaner air, less radiation, or more light to recharge. In ‘map’ mode the system receives data from all the other ‘satellites’ being carried by people in the area, and displays on a map their location and contamination level. Carriers might choose the cleanest path to walk or, in a spirit of risky play, purposely seek the most contamination; either way, the city’s pollution topography is dramatically plotted.

Through this playful grass-roots monitoring, the presence of contaminants in a community can be known and charted by anyone. This awareness encourages a more conscious individual behaviour, which spreads cumulatively to neighbouring communities. QuickTime Movie (by Andrea Pierri)

Posted by jo at June 12, 2006 04:30 PM