Visualizing Pollution? There’s an App for That

© 2019 Quimera Verde

At SIGGRAPH 2019, creators presented innovative apps that are changing the way users interact with the world as part of the Appy Hour program. One app, in particular, is contributing to the conversation on global climate change. “Aire – Visualize Air Quality” lets users see and learn about the air pollution surrounding them. We caught up with “Aire” creators Paulina Escalante Campbell and Natalia Garcia Torres, of Quimera Verde, to hear more about their motivation for creating “Aire” and how they think it will help users understand the impact of pollution.

SIGGRAPH: What motivated you to create “Aire – Visualize Air Quality” as an app?

Paulina Escalante Campbell (PEC) and Natalia Garcia Torres (NGT): We lived in a city ruled by cars, construction, and factories, and it was becoming evident that the air quality was really bad. Together with some friends, we decided that the best way that we could help was by creating a team of people who cared about the environment and was committed to make discussion forums in different neighborhoods of the city. This group got the name Quimera Verde. Our passion for UX and technology made us believe that we could make these forums more impactful by using an immersive AR experience. The best way for us to distribute it to the team and to the people attending our events was by making it an app. We are glad we did it this way, because now that we know people are enjoying it and learning from it, it’s good to know that anyone can use it.

SIGGRAPH: Tell us about how you developed the app. What techniques did you use in order to make it so that users can capture air quality?

PEC and NGT: Our main focus was to create an immersive experience that makes something invisible visible by using augmented reality, which places the person in the middle of the chaos of air pollution. Making the air pollutants float around, levitate, and jump when clicked brings them to life. “Aire” is all about taking the air pollution — something many consider an abstract concept — and making it tangible and interactive to transmit a message.

SIGGRAPH: How do you hope your app will be used moving forward? What do you want users to take away from using it?

PEC and NGT: We hope we can create a spark of curiosity in people to dig deeper on this topic and continue the conversation. “Aire” is meant to be a tool that drives interest in air quality. We are eager to learn what this means to users and what it empowers them to do.

SIGGRAPH: Recently, there have been many discussions on the state of our global climate and climate change. How does this app contribute to the greater conversation?

PEC and NGT: “Aire” helps people to see the current state of the air quality. It can be a single or multi-user experience, where the latter helps people communicate what they know and what they understand about the problem. By creating a visual representation, we are highlighting the state of air quality. This makes the app a tool to drive the conversation toward issues, solutions, causes, and consequences.

SIGGRAPH: Do you think this app will help users understand the impact of pollution? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not?

PEC and NGT: We’ve had people in awe, asking if what we show in the app is an actual representation of what they are breathing, and so many people are surprised about how bad it is. Since the app makes it really easy to see and understand the particles in the air, it has been a catalyst for the conversation around the impact of pollution on our health and our day-to-day lives. We don’t know if, after using the app, people will fully understand the impact of pollution, but they will know that the gray cloud they are seeing is, in fact, air pollution and it has an effect on their lives.

SIGGRAPH: How was your SIGGRAPH 2019 experience? Share your favorite moment with us.

PEC and NGT: It was amazing to go back after many years of volunteering and be able to share our ideas with the world and get feedback on them. Appy Hour is a great event to participate in because everyone is really friendly and wants to have an authentic conversation about your idea and how to improve it.

Do you have an innovative app that you want to share with the computer graphics and interactive techniques community? Present it during SIGGRAPH 2020 in Washington, D.C.! Look for more information on how to submit to Appy Hour submission soon.


Paulina Escalante Campbell is a software engineer at Microsoft. Originally from Mexico, she is passionate about technology, making a difference, helping people, and working on projects as an independent mobile application developer on whatever new ideas she can develop.

Natalia Garcia Torres is an environmentalist. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, she is interested in making impactful contributions to social issues through the use of technology and UX studies. She graduated from Tec de Monterrey in 2018 and currently works as a UX developer at Microsoft and volunteers for Quimera.

Paulina Escalante Campbell is a software engineer at Microsoft. Originally from Mexico, she is passionate about technology, making a difference, helping people, and working on projects as an independent mobile application developer on whatever new ideas she can develop.

 

 

 

 

Natalia Garcia Torres is an environmentalist. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, she is interested in making impactful contributions to social issues through the use of technology and UX studies. She graduated from Tec de Monterrey in 2018 and currently works as a UX developer at Microsoft and volunteers for Quimera

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