Created for a new community’s high tech school in Cambridge, UK, Cinder is a permanent mixed-reality installation integrated into the building and connected with its building management and sustainability systems.


Trumpington Community College

Cinder is a digital cat that lives in this new school's internal network, appearing occasionally in a large interactive augmented reality mirror situated within the school's central space. Co-created with incoming students, the project serves as both a meaningful shared experience connecting users to their new work and play environment, as well as a medium for understanding the relationship between environment and energy usage.

We worked with students and teachers for more than a year to co-create Cinder and its interactions, ensuring that it’s not just engaging but also serves an educational purpose.

Responding in real-time to people's interactions, and changing form based on real-time sensor and weather data, Cinder mirrors the state of both the environment and its occupants’ patterns of activity, helping connect the two.

Students interacting with Cinder in school's central space
Students interacting with Cinder in school's central space
Cinder appearing on a large mounted display

“It has been a real pleasure working with the team… over the past 18 months. The students have been inspired by the project and [what] Trumpington Community College [now has] is truly innovative.”

– John Jones
Head of School, Trumpington Community College

Cinder appearing on a large mounted display

When overstimulated, Cinder disappears into the network, reappearing some time later on one student's laptop.

By feeding her virtual 'food' generated in real-time by solar panels, students learn about the impact of energy production on her behaviour and, by extension, the building's environmental performance.

This dynamic relationship, developed to support the school's STEM curriculum, fosters a deeper understanding of energy behaviours.

Through these daily interactions, Cinder encourages proactive measures to reduce overall energy consumption, offering a model for transforming the built environment by blending physical and digital, human and non-human, natural and artificial.

Cinder emerging on student's laptop
Cinder emerging on student's laptop
Photos of Cinder as installed and during development


Project by Umbrellium, Creative Director Usman Haque, Project Lead / Software Developer Ling Tan and Creative Technologist Nitipak Samsen

Production Support From
Rob Hemmings
Random Quark
Sadam Fujioka
Levent Ali
Khusro Karim
Kamal Ackarie

Special thanks
• Incoming students from Trumpington Commmunity College who participated in the project

All photos © 2024 HAQUE TAN

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