AirBare is an art project that communicates data collected from air quality sensors deployed in downtown Louisville

The Challenge

Clean air is a prerequisite for a healthy life, and yet rarely discussed in an urban health context. This is mostly because air is invisible, and what cannot be seen or touched is easily overlooked. Through this project we want to lay bare what is hidden in plain sight by turning air quality data into something you can see, touch, and explore. Downtown Louisville was selected as a site for installation since it has some of the worst air quality in the US. It sits in a valley where the air stagnates. Other sources that contribute to the pollution are a collection of chemical plants called Rubbertown, close to Ohio River.

The Solution

Airbare is a data art project that visualizes data collected from air quality sensors deployed throughout the city of Louisville. We do this by augmenting or layering our view of the world with air particles that have been amplified, almost as if seeing them through a microscope. Only in this case, the viewer sees these particles in the visible world. By making the invisible visible, we make the community more attentive to the air we breathe every day. An element of gamification allows the users to interact with the piece, and learn more about what causes air pollution and what can be done to reverse it on our end. The project also predicts probable asthma events using a data model created by Propeller Health.

The Technical Details

The data visualization was created using an open source graphic software called Open Frameworks. An Arduino Mega microcontroller controls LEDs that have been installed at the back of the installation ambiently displaying temperature data. Airbare uses mobile broadband to connect to the ManyLabs API server for latest sensor readings. These sensors which have been installed at 5 different locations in Louisville send real time carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and temperature readings to Airbare. Other hardware includes a 47” outdoor touchscreen monitor and a digital camera that sends a live feed, and makes it seem as if the user is looking through the installation like a window.

Partnerships & Community

The AirBare installation was created in partnership with Creative Commons, Manylabs, Office of Civic Innovation, Louisville Metro Government & Louisville Downtown Partnership with funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Commissioning Partner

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Creative Commons.


Concept Development, Physical Design, Content Development, Interaction Design, Technical Development.


Completed Mar 2015


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