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Spv: Rod Selfridge

Project 1: Whispering air - sonic interaction design for an air quality portable sensor


Air quality and pollution is of great concern in virtually every major city, including Stockholm. It can increase the risk of heart and lung diseases and can reduce life expectancy. Air pollution in Sweden is mainly driven by traffic, energy production and industry, especially in urban areas. In the underground, the values of air pollution particles can be much higher than the busiest streets. Recently portable air quality sensors have become available, but often require the user to read complex relatively graphs or data in an app.

Similarly, in enclosed spaces like offices and vehicles, the reduction in air quality can induce fatigue, respiritory problems, and irritate the eyes. This can affect productivity, well-being and safety if operating dangerous equipment or driving.


In this project we aim to augment a portable air quality sensor with sound that can be delivered to the user either via earphones, or from an object itself, in an unobstructive way. This sound should inform the user in real-time of the quality of the air around them as they walk or cycle, allowing them to make decisions on-the-go about the best itinerary for their trip. The sensor could be worn as part of a garment, or attached in some other manner. Alternatively, an object could be used in an office, factory or a vehicle, allowing the occupants to make infomred decisions on the ventilation required and ultimately safety of operation.


Participatory methods will be used to design a sonic enhanced portable air quality prototype, the user experience, and to select appropriate sonic interaction design strategies. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods will be used to assess how this prototype can facilitate understanding and engagement with air quality and sustainability.

Initial references

  • Air Quality in Sweden
  • Sonic Interaction Design book
  • Johansson, Christer, and Per-Åke Johansson. "Particulate matter in the underground of Stockholm." Atmospheric Environment 37.1 (2003): 3-9.
  • Kenichi Azuma, Naoki Kagi, U Yanagi, and Haruki Osawa. 2018. Effects of low-level inhalation exposure to carbon dioxide in indoor environments: A short review on human health and psychomotor performance. Environment international121 (2018), 51–56

Supervisors: Rod Selfridge and Sandra Pauletto