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Here's a Wearable Prosthetic That Detects Air Pollution

Jacobson’s Fabulous Olfactometer curls your upper lip in response to particles and CO2 levels.

When horses, tigers and other mammals curl back their upper lip and expose their teeth in response to an unusual taste or smell, the grimace-like expression is called a “flehmen response.” Designer Susanna Hertrich wanted to create the same reaction in human beings—specifically during high air pollution levels—and thus sensorial prosthesis, Jacobson’s Fabulous Olfactometer (JFO), was born.

An “accelerated human evolution driven by means of existing technologies—with the goal to help us cope with extreme environments,” as Hendricks explains on her site, “the device utilizes off-shelf-technology to fill a gap in human evolution and provide us with a new sense.” She adds that the device could also help us against the loads of airborne pollutants she imagines will thrive in futuristic megacities. 

The chemical sensors on the forehead of the wearable analyze particle and CO2 levels in the air, feeding the data into an Arduino board. Motors activate gears that pull the wearer’s upper lip upwards, stimulating the “flehmen response” when a “dangerous threshold is overridden.” On one hand, the device foreshadows an all-too-possible future. On the other, it nods to ancient legends wherein humans acquired animal powers by wearing their parts.

Below, watch JFO-wearers sneer at high levels of air pollution:

H/t Creative Applications

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