Detect air pollution levels in your city with this helmet

This sensorial wearable prosthesis provides a new human sense.

From handheld devices that mapped air pollution, to smart umbrellas that sensed it, to creations that turned offensive air into enticing art, we thought we’ve seen it all when it came to Makers and their surrounding environment. That was before coming across this wearable project by Maker Susanna Hertrich. Living with poor air quality seems be what most of us are doing these days, particularly those of us who happen to reside in metropolitan areas such as Beijing or New York City that are filled with exhaust, smoke and an omnipresent haze that never seems to fade.


Cognizant of this, Hertrich has devised what she calls the Jacobson’s Fabulous Olfactometer (JFO)a head-mounted contraption that offers sensory augmentation for the human olfactory system under extreme living conditions of polluted cities. While the device may not resemble other wearable devices on the market — and appears to better suited for steampunk attire or medieval times for that matter — the JFO enables its user to directly sense chemicals in the air, as a warning signal, modifies the wearer’s face similar to the ‘Flehmen response.’ (This refers to the way in which cats, horses, donkeys, cattle and a whole slew of other animals curl their upper lip back on itself, open their mouths and lift their heads to the sky.)


The device isn’t designed to help you entertain the crowd with funny faces, but rather, to detect the levels of air pollution in your immediate vicinity at a far higher level of accuracy. In fact, Hertrich says that it is “an accelerated human evolution driven by means of existing technologies — with the goal to help us cope with extreme environments. The device utilizes off-shelf-technology to fill a gap in human evolution and provide us with a new sense.”


Embedded into the forehead of the prosthesis are chemical sensors, which are capable of collecting air data and detaching carbon dioxide levels. This data is then fed to a megaAVR based Arduino board, which deciphers whether CO2 levels are at a high enough level to be harmful. If so, motors activate gears that pull the wearer’s upper lip upwards, stimulating the aforementioned “Flehmen response” when a dangerous threshold is overridden.

“Can we accelerate human evolution by means of existing technologies to cope with extreme living environments? What if we extend our sensorial abilities to ‘smell’ airborne chemicals?” Hertrich asks. Whether or not this is the solution, the device blends both futuristic tech with inherent traits of animals to solve an all-too-real problem. Intrigued? Head over to the Maker’s official page to learn all about the sensorial project.

1 thought on “Detect air pollution levels in your city with this helmet

  1. Pingback: Here are some unbelievable projects to help celebrate Arduino Day | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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