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At USC, smartphone cameras taking aim at dirty skies

September 21, 2010 | 11:45 am

Vis2 On a clear day, you should be able to see close to 140 miles across our warm western skies.  That's about the distance from Malibu to Palm Springs. 

But thanks to decades of air pollution, haze and debris have reduced visibility to between 35 and 90 miles.

With that context hanging in the background, computer scientists at USC are taking a novel approach to measuring air pollution:  they want you to help them take lots and lots of pictures of the Los Angeles skies -- with your smartphone. 

To do to this, they've devised an app called "Visibility" that runs on Android-based phones (and soon the iPhone), that encourages you to snap a picture of the sky that is then analyzed to determine if the air is as clear as it should be.

Read more about the free app at the Times' Technology Blog.

-- David Sarno

Image: A screen capture from the Visibility app.  Credit: USC Viterbi School of Engineering.