Smoke Viz

In this project we explore the topic of smoking. This habit has a rich social context and cultural background despite its negative health risks. We are interested in the space occupied by smokers, designed objects related to smoking (i.e. ashtrays, lighters) and the cultural romance attached to it.

Why do we prepare it?

Smoke Viz project started after seeing many KIBU researchers smoking outside in front of KIBU entrance.

Everyone knows that smoking is not healthy but how to deal with it? There are rather direct ways of communicating the badness of smoking like labels on cigarette box telling "Smoking kills" or "Cigarettes are highly addictive". However, smokers tend to ignore such straight way of telling horrifying facts. To the contrary, the action of coughing is an unconscious action and therefore is an excessively subtle way of expressing that smoking harms your health and your surrounding.

What to make cough? First of all we thought of the ashtray, being the most active passive smoker. Also it is easy to be hacked and replaced in a bar, compared to the cigarette and lighter which is a more personal belonging.

How does it work?

How to make something to react on smoke? We took apart some smoke alarms generally used in houses to detect fire. On the basis of the electronics we found in the alarm we built our first prototype.


This is a normal, easily accessable smoke alarm taken apart. The smoke chamber inside is a black plastic cylinder with openings around the edge: this lets the air pass through the chamber while keeping light out from the interior. This unit originally contains IR LED and IR diode for checking the presence of smoke. We had to replace these with normal LED and photo resistor in order to check the level of smoke inside the chamber. The photoresistor does not see the smoke itself but can detect the light diffused by the smoke.

1: 9V battery 2: smoke chamber 3: Tone Tag borrowed 4: Arduino Mini

This was our first prototype. Check the video to see it working.


Current state

For the followings we set up new goal, to make kind of a product line:

  • coughing wallpaper - for your office
  • coughing flower - for your home

  • coughing ashtray - for your favourite café

Participating researchers

Bujdosó Attila, Ozsvald Eszter