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For calibrating the air sensor, I tested different conditions around Ivrea. A car with a running engine will have an impact on the readout, even when it is a few metres away.
For all my prototyping I was using Wiring, a programming environment and electronics I/O board developed by Hernando Barragan. Find out more about it!
Here I made a pdf with all the circuits, code and resources if you are interested to build an air sensing satellite yourself.
I'd be excited to see new models so please send me your pictures!
Just as satellites monitor and relay their findings from one place to another, people could become probes themselves, searching for particles and signals within the galaxies of their neighbourhoods.
Equipped with a mobile sensing device and transmitter, they would have the ability to uncover, examine, and share the environmental data that they collect. This data also influences the structure of a digital game world, where the parameters are closely related to
the sensing activities.

My goal was to build a working prototype that people could take and walk with through the city. It became a kit consisting of two parts: in the one hand the satellite as sensing device and game controller, in the other a little video display for the game and other readout.

The satellite as sensing instrument:
In its current prototype form, the satellite can discover two different kinds of environmental inputs. It senses air quality and light values. Each of these elements will affect the game later in a different way, depending on the levels detected.

The air quality sensor is capable of distinguishing between a range of different gases. I was using however only the overall intensity detected.
The satellite as game controller:
The way the satellite is tilted by the hand controls its navigation on the screen. An accelerometer hidden inside the body reads two directions of tilt: pointing the nose up or down along the y- axis to ascend or dive at the corresponding angle, and rolling the satellite sideways along the x- axis. This movement is used in the context of the game to shake off contaminants that settle on the body of the probe.

Like this the satellite could be navigated in a way, just as kids fly toy planes through the air.

Combining the two features of sensing and controlling made the satellite a richer and more intricate interface, which was in turn more beneficial to the gaming experience. The satellite’s position in the hand is just as relevant to the game as the position of the player inside a space when probing areas for readings.

Besides the visual indication of what is happening in the environment, the satellite also communicates through tangible behaviour, with a little motor attached inside.
The monitor:
The display sits inside a little box, connected to three buttons for switching among modes.
The Neighbourhood Satellite protoype kit
All of that is attached to this backpack, which carries an ibook and a big battery inside.
The bag is kindly inspired by Amy Franceschini's beatuiful designs and artfully crafted by Francesco Zannier.
With all my prototyping I had fantastic help from Nick Zambetti and David Mellis.
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