Cinder (2016)

Cinder is an interactive mixed-reality 'cat', connected to a building management system, that helps students understand and make decisions about energy-use

Deployed in 2016 in a new school, Trumpington Community College, Cambridge, Cinder takes the form of a virtual cat that thrives alongside the high-tech building’s sustainability systems. Part interactive mascot, part avatar for the building, she responds in real-time to the state of the environment and its occupants.

Cinder playing with students and growing larger

People play and interact with Cinder in the school’s main space, where she appears on a large ‘augmented reality’ mirror that ‘reveals’ her in the physical space of the atrium. Her behaviour and appearance are affected in realtime by sensor data, and by how people interact with her.

Sometimes, she darts between people and holds out her paws to friendly gestures, and she might even shrink or grow. Other times, when she’s been too active or not had enough, to eat she scampers away, disappearing into the network to hunt for ‘food’ generated in realtime by the solar panels on the roof.

On sunny days, when more energy is produced by the photovoltaics, students will be able to feed her more food as she appears on their laptops, begging for attention. In winter, however, when solar food is scarce, her energy levels go down and she might be less motivated to play.

Cinder on chromebooks

Over time, she changes size, colour and personality, responding as the surrounding environment changes and people of all ages interact with her. Every now and then you might even catch her dreaming of electric mice or donning a cap to celebrate a special occasion.

Prototyping Cinder with students

Cinder was developed with assistance from incoming students, who will live with her for the next few years. Through a series of interactive workshops they helped determine her appearance, her behaviour and even some ‘easter eggs’ that appear under specific rare conditions.

Cinder at launch
Waiting for Cinder
Cinder in the foyer
Cinder 'easter egg'
Cinder towering above students
Cinder at assembly

The project was commissioned by City of Cambridge Education Foundation for Trumpington Community College. Read more about in Umbrellium's overview of Cinder.