Designers in Vienna created sensors for BBQ smoke, sunscreen, and other telltale signs of the season.
How do you know when summer has arrived? There are the objective measures, of course: the mercury rising, the pools opening, the observance of Memorial Day. But for many of us, it’s a range of visceral signals, tied to the cities we live in, that officially usher in shorts and swimsuit weather—from the brief respite from umbrellas in Seattle to the influx of sweaty, bewildered interns in Washington, D.C.
In Vienna, designers Johanna Pichlbauer and Mia Meusburger got these non-scientific cues down to, well, a science. Their “Summer Scouts” project—designed in a summer course at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna—deployed colorful high-tech sensors around the city to detect seven key signs of summer: tree pollen, biergarten noise, barbecue smoke, sunscreen in pool water, mosquito movement, ice cream scooping, and window-opening on public transit. Once every one of these measurements exceeded a certain threshold, summer had officially arrived.
Judging by the idyllic images in the video, Vienna seems like a fairly perfect place to vacation. We shudder to think what sensors would detect in, say, New York: Number of air conditioner drips per hour? Hot garbage particles per cubic meter of air? Every city summers in its own way. Some do it more comfortably than others.