Air pollution can enhance a vivid sunset, but it still isn’t very much fun. Breathing it, seeing it, and recognizing its invisible effects on our bodies can be a real killjoy. But what if we could gamify a solution?
Fiorella Rios is a 22-year-old industrial design student with an augmented-reality game to fight air pollution in our own homes. The concept behind “HERO,” a submission in the 2014 Electrolux design competition, relies on an interactive kit of glasses, wrist-guards, and something that sort of looks like a set of brass knuckles. According to Rios, the OLED glasses would allow the wearer to see magnified particles inside his or her home, and the wristguard and finger rings act as air purifiers.
“HERO takes advantage of technology, which is firmly embedded in our everyday life, using it for cleaning purposes and for fun,” Rios writes in her product description. “It will play an important role in shaping children’s behavior and will raise awareness of air pollution, creating role models for a healthy life.”
Gamifying environmentalism has traditionally been a tough nut to crack, though others have tried. In 2012, University of California-Berkeley professor Greg Niemeyer developed a game called AirQuest, which followed an asthmatic hero as he fought common pollutants and interpreted climate data.
Rios’s idea brings up a separate and under-recognized issue: indoor air pollution. According to the World Health Organization, some 4.3 million people die a year because of exposure to indoor air pollutants, largely generated from cooking stoves and heating fuels. An augmented reality game probably isn’t the best tool to deploy in those environments, but cleaner cooking stoves–that cook food the same way traditional ones do—could be.