Inspiration of AIR BEAR

According to WHO (World Health Organization), every day around 93% of the world’s children breathe polluted air. It puts their health and development at serious risk. Air pollution especially PM2.5 pollution is not visible to the human eye. Many people are breathing this polluted air without being aware about the health problems.

We built Air Bear to raise people’s awareness about air quality and to give easy to use access to information about air pollution as well as a lightweight way to check air quality and to get notified whenever the air quality becomes a health risk in a location you are interested in (e.g. the city your kids live in). We focus on parents because young children are most vulnerable to air pollution.

What it does

Air Bear is a messaging and AR experience in the form of a friendly chatbot that reminds parents about air quality and helps parents to educate their children and loved ones.

The Air Bear Facebook Messenger app provides real-time air quality information based on user location along with concrete recommendations to protect the health of children and loved ones.

On top of that Air Bear comes with an AR (Augmented Reality) experience to visualize air quality information based on the real-time air quality data of the location the user specified. The AR experience can be used by parents to help explain air pollution to their children and loved ones to make air pollution visible and easier to understand.

The AR experience can also be used to create public story posts on social media to raise awareness about air pollution.

How we approached the challenge (Parents as target audience)

We started brainstorming about the air pollution problems based on the insight from SDG11 subject matter experts. We were shocked how big of a problem air pollution is. More than 90% of the world’s population live in areas that regularly exceed air quality guidelines set by the WHO (World Health Organization).

While almost anyone is affected by air quality problems we chose to narrow our target user group down to parents as they are in the ideal position to educate their children and care for the elderly who otherwise would not be aware of air pollution related health risks and actionable prevention like using breathing masks or staying inside on days with air pollution.

Challenges we ran into

Narrowing down to a more focused group of users (parents) took us some time. Building for everyone is building for no-one. The original idea that we had was too vague (a generic air quality check). We decided to narrow down parents and children only on the second day after some user research. We noticed that parents have a difficult time to explain air pollution to their children as the air is not always noticeable visibly different during pollution.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We allow people to visualize and share air pollution information in their area easier and more social compared to typical air quality apps. We have sent the prototype to people in Bangkok, and Chiang Mai who are living in areas that are affected by air pollution on a regular basis and got positive feedback even while the prototype was unpolished. The concept also resonated with people in California who remember the recent wildfires.

What we learned

  • Insight into how people deal with air pollution and the problems they’re facing with explaining air pollution to children.
  • Learning new technology and tools (especially Spark AR)
  • Insight into Sustainable Development Goals from subject matter experts

What's next for AIR BEAR

Partner with schools and playgrounds: Work with schools in the areas with air pollution challenges. We have interviewed a school owner in Bangkok, he’s interested in Air bear and it’s application (e.g. Spark AR interactive screens to visualize the current air quality situation). link

Localization: We hope to expand the chatbot to supporting local languages e.g Thai, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, and German.

Providing safe space in the community: Public spaces like libraries, museums and theaters can reach out to Air Bear users to promote their space as indoor activity on days where it is better to stay inside.

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