As hay fever season approaches, Tokyo-based weather forecasting company Weathernews, Inc. is deploying a 200-strong army of beady-eyed, ball-shaped robots nationwide to monitor the pollen situation.
The so-called "Pollen Robots," which weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) and measure 30 centimeters (1 ft) across, consist of a monitoring unit housed in a spherical styrofoam shell. A pair of eyes glow 5 different colors -- white, blue, green, red and purple -- to indicate the level of Japanese cedar and cypress pollen in the air.
Two hundred hay fever sufferers around the country have volunteered to hang the Pollen Robots outside their homes, where they will monitor the air and send minute-by-minute reports over the Internet to Weathernews headquarters in Tokyo. The data will be used to update the company's online pollen map.
Weathernews is forecasting higher-than-normal pollen counts this spring.