2012-07-12

Co.Exist

These Beautiful Smart Kites Detect Air Pollution

Imagine a flotilla of glowing kites that indicate if the air is good or bad on any given day. That’s the vision of Float Beijing.

The air around you is probably more polluted than you think, and soon, you’ll be able to find out just how dirty it actually is. A slew of new tools, including Intel’s network of air quality monitors and the open-source Air Quality Egg sensor network, will allow anyone to view concentrations of pollutants in their immediate area. The latest—and perhaps most beautiful—is FLOAT Beijing, a series of glow-in-the-dark kites that detect carbon monoxide, VOC, and particulate matter,

Created by a pair of students from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University, the kites are outfitted with LED lights and pollution-detecting modules. Pollution levels are reflected by color changes in the LED lights.

Soon, the FLOAT creators plan to hold a series of three workshops and night flights for Beijing residents. Participants will have the opportunity to create and ultimately launch their own kites. The creators explain on Kickstarter: " Due to light and air pollution, it is extremely difficult to see stars in the Beijing night sky. These kites will appear not only as indicators of urban air pollution, but also a strong visual and sensory experience."

So far, FLOAT has received funding from the Black Rock Arts Foundation (a nonprofit tied to several Burning Man founders). The project is also getting some help from a kitemaster in Beijing. And so far on Kickstarter the project has raised $1,610 out of a goal of $2,500. We hope it succeeds—at the very least, these kites make for a decent alternative to the stars that can’t be seen in Beijing’s smoggy skies.

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