Miners used to bring canary birds into coal mines to detect poisonous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide. The canaries would react to these invisible toxic gases, serving as a warning to miners to evacuate, potentially saving their lives. With this idea in mind, we asked ourselves the question: How can we give citizens the tools to better understand their environment?
Google Android Sponsored Project UI / UX / Branding / Art Direction
Team: April Cheung (Graphic) Kelsey Chow (Graphic) Joe Tsao (Product) India Hillis (Product) Justin Babikian (Product)
The Value of Knowledge
Canary leverages two major existing platforms, among others: the geocaching crowd and existing citizen science participants. Equipped with power in numbers and socially active users, Canary seeks to tackle diverse and significant environmental concerns.
We looked at case studies in the past including the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, where there was an urgent need to collect data points over a large area, and the Flint Water Crisis, where the government's corruption led to contaminating a city's drinking water supply. These issues could have been resolved if a system like Canary existed that would give the general public the tools to take action, as well as informing citizens of the invisible qualities of their immediate environments.
Users pair their modules with their smartphone in order to measure their environment. The Canary App serves as a platform to aggregate environmental data and facilitate a community in which citizens can become informed about their environment and share this awareness with others.
We took what we learned from geocaching and applied it to citizen science by adding a level of play to the Canary app. Users can earn badges for different achievements.
Re-imagine science tools
Canary makes science fun through its unconventional approach. The physical products further this idea by playfully re-imagining how traditional science tools are manifested. The modular charging station is comprised of individual wall pegs from which you can hang the handheld sensors.
1. Sensor Head 2. Modular CPU Receptacle (Particulate) 3. Modular CPU Receptacle (NO2) 4. Power Button 5. Charging Cord Base/Battery
Canary measures three categorical elements: Air, Soil, and Water. The Air Modules measure qualities of the air as they are waved around; Soil Modules can be uncapped to reveal prongs that collect information like pH, moisture, and acidity when staked in the ground; Water Modules fetch information about water that runs through it as the user ladles it into various bodies of water.
The driving force behind our project has been the belief that more eyes lead to better findings. We feel that by adding this layer of scientific data to Google Maps, we should be able to facilitate citizen science and gain a holistic understanding of our world.