"This color means: "You can go outside but don't expect it to be Shangri-La out there."
This color means: “You can go outside but don’t expect it to be Shangri-La out there.”
Jacobs School of Engineering, UCSD

Do you remember in The Big Lebowski when TBL himself says to the Dude, “You told Brandt on the phone, and Brandt told me?” Well, that’s kind of the same way that this device, called CitiSense, works. It measures the air pollution, it sends a message to your phone, and then your phone tells you how much air pollution there is in a given area. Unpacking the analogy further: The Dude is CitiSense here, Brandt is the phone, and then, the Big Lebowski is you. So essentially this is a gadget that makes you into the Big Lebowski. Wait, back up, I want a gadget that makes me into the Dude. Screw this thing.

No, actually, it’s pretty cool if you like keeping an eye on your air quality. The way it works (we thought you’d never ask): you carry around a dingus equipped with air pollution sensors. Those sensors collect data and send it to your phone, which can then display air quality using a scale of red to green, green being “go ahead outside and play beach volleyball” and red being “move to the Moon with Newt Gingrich NOW.”

With the addition of a wireless network, you wouldn’t even have to carry a clunky sensor device around with you (although clearly people are willing to do that as long as it blinks encouraging messages at them, ahem, Fitbit). A CitiSense network would be able to transmit air quality data wirelessly to anyone with the app on their phone, so it could be part of their weather forecast. People who have health conditions like asthma or emphysema can use it as a guide to whether it’s a good idea to leave the house. People who don’t can just look at it and go, “Oh, that’s not so bad,” or, conversely, “Fuck.”