The Loh Down On Science

Pollen Bots

Beady-eyed, ball-shaped robots offer good news for allergy sufferers.

Having a bad AIR day?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and with good news for sufferers of pollen allergies.

A Japanese weather forecasting company has a fresh new way to deal with stuff flying around in the air. Their invention: two hundred beady-eyed, ball-shaped, one-foot-wide robots.

These bots are actually monitoring units stuffed into Styrofoam shells.

The robots' glowing eyes change color--from white to blue, green, red, or purple--depending on the amount of pollen from Japanese cedars and cypresses wafting through the breeze.

Each robot transmits then reports via a wireless link to Weather News headquarters in Toyko. There, up-to-the-minute maps showing the current concentration of airborne pollen are generated and posted to the Web.

A similar project, dubbed CitySense, is underway in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More serious-looking wireless sensors are being deployed across the city, mounted on streetlamps and connected to Harvard University's central server.

With the click of a mouse, you'll discover yet ANOTHER reason not to leave the house. "I WANTED to come to work but while the traffic was clear, the pollen was not. Sorry."


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