It may not be dignified, but as a society we seem to require mascots as ambassadors of environmental protection. Smokey Bear has been teaching us about the importance of preventing wildfires for decades now. The California Raisins were a horrific vision of a future when a drought-stricken Golden State stops using grapes for wine. Clippy helped convince us to turn off our computers in order to avoid him, saving electricity. Now, the robotic teddy bear Toxic Toby is warning Londoners about dangerous air pollution.
Toxic Toby was created by the advertising agency McCann London as way to draw attention to the smog that plagues London, just as it does most large cities. They obviously passed up a huge opportunity when they decided not to name it Smoggy Bear, but the mission is still important. According to Fast Company, illness related to air pollution kills dozens of times more Londoners every year than car accidents. Toxic Toby’s purpose is to bring that danger into the public consciousness, and hopefully fuel change.
To accomplish that, the animatronic teddy bear was temporarily strapped to a streetlight on one of London’s smoggiest roads. Inside Toxic Toby is a 3D-printed skeleton and the motors to move it. Hyperlocal air quality monitoring is provided through BreezoMeter, and triggers Toxic Toby to raise his hand and cough. That catches the attention of passersby, of course. But, Toxic Toby also tweets to local politicians every time he coughs, which could actually force change. Toxic Toby is, as you probably gathered, an attempt at creating a viral campaign, and that’s a good thing if it ultimately improves air quality.