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Summary:

Google is showing off samples of the first apps made by companies for its new augmented reality device Google Glass, including apps to read headlines, email and see photos. But this is the app I really want: augmented reality to overlay carbon emissions data.

Google showed off a few sample apps for its augmented reality Google Glass at the SXSW festival this week, and the apps were pretty obvious ones, including being able to view select headlines from the New York Times, checking out your Path photos and being able to read your emails. And while I know most of the early apps built are going to be like this — services help people manage their digital communication — I really want an app that helps people see the world differently and potentially help with important global issues like climate change.

That’s why I really want a concerned and passionate developer to build a carbon emissions viewer for Google Glass. The concept could be pretty simple. The app would take objects — from cars to buildings to cell phones — that use electricity or oil and overlay them with data or imagery about how much carbon, or greenhouse gases, they are emitting.

Depending on how the developer wanted to visualize the data, the app could show an infographic, graphics that look like smoke clouds, or just a couple of basic data points. Most of this type of data is out there and being collected by energy software companies, government institutions, nonprofits utilities and others.

Companies that collect such data have long tried to figure out creative ways to make data about carbon emissions interesting, provocative, compelling and cool. Grist’s David Roberts blogged about the rare non-sucky infographic on climate change this week. The Victorian Government created this video campaign to illustrate carbon emissions as black balloons a few years ago.

If there was a super compelling visual rendering of greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps that would help more people galvanize around carbon emissions reducing projects and technologies, like lower emissions cars, and energy efficient buildings. These types of projects and technologies are pretty boring, and unless there’s some way that they can be made more compelling, they’ll continued to be under investigated and under funded.

Another inherent problem with climate change and carbon emissions is that emissions can’t be seen by the human eye, so they are easy for people to dismiss. Pollutants that produce smog, or smoke, or make water dirty, are far easier to get people to rally behind, because there’s constant visual proof. There’s proof for carbon emissions, of course too, but you need instruments like Picarro’s emissions detecting sensors.

There’s already some websites and smart phone apps that are trying to make a similar idea to this carbon emissions viewer. There’s CO2GO, a mobile app that calculates in real-time the carbon emissions of a user while you’re on the go. And there’s 3D visualizations like the carbon emissions globe. But placing this data over the eye, so that it becomes ingrained in daily life, could be even more powerful.

O.K., so such a carbon emissions app wouldn’t be something you’d want to use or wear all the time. Or very often. It’d be more like an educational tool or a art project. But I think it would be important.

So calling all developers. There’s some data sourcing and UI work you’d need to figure out, but anyone up for a carbon emissions viewer Google Glass app?

  1. i would rather make my glass dark if emissions in your local area are at dangerous level so that i don’t even go out in dangerous climate.

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  2. I work for a green house gas management firm as an app developer so I thought this was a neat idea. I can tell you, without much pondering, what the biggest barrier to something like this is. Its not the technology or developer willingness or lack of audience, it’s actually a standards problem. There’s lots of companies putting out data, but the accuracy and reliability of this data is up for a lot of debate. Until companies have an ISO certified report of their products emissions, an app like this would just be a tech demo.

    Still there’s some really interesting use cases that could happen. If a device has geo-location data, utilities service area, information on those utilities’ yearly emissions and is able to recognize a wall socket, you could overlay the estimated emissions for a 120volt 15 amp outlet (should an appliance draw maximum power from it).

    There’s a proposed waste processor plant in London which has a smoke stack that emits it’s smoke in rings. Each ring represents a set amount of C02. Immediate visual feedback on emissions would do the world wonders.

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  3. The hype swirling around Google Glass is somewhat reminiscent of that which swirled around the Segway, back in the day. It will ultimately be used to do what Google does, dare I say best, shove advertisements into eyeballs.

    I’d rather see effort put into technology that removes carbon from the atmosphere.

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  4. there are garbage dumps in Manila, Philippines, and how I wish Google would made wearable glass, that can detect toxic gases in land fills, viewing from a distance, it is picture of hell, the sight and the smell

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  5. Yes absolutely, many potential uses for google glass :)

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  6. Even more interesting would be to see the co2 footprint of each person you meet.

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  7. Intriguing idea…. I cofounded a social enterprise in Vancouver BC called Climate Smart Businesses – we are building a growing database of third party certified emissions inventories – from office based to manufacturing, trade transport. We are just about to launch a new industry brief series to share some of that benchmark data…

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  8. This is the damn stupidest oxymoron idea i ever heard!

    The carbon emissions to make Google Goggles are pretty whopping in the first place..

    when it looks at someone else in ridiculous Google Goggles would it have all the stats for the rare metals it needs from mines in Africa, or all the air miles and externalities to get such a silky product on your face?

    come on wake up, drop your stupid ass glasses wandering the streets looking at carbon emission stats and grow a potato..

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