SPAIN • Cats have more hidden talents than just starring in YouTube videos and Instagram photos. They might also be able to teach us to conserve energy.
At least that is what a group of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia believe. They are leading a project that teaches families how to live in a more sustainable way, through a video game called EnergyCat: The House Of Tomorrow.
The game interface is similar to The Sims, a well-known social simulation video game, and players advance once they successfully complete missions related to energy efficiency.
The game rewards actions as simple as turning off the lights, and provides information on more complex issues such as choosing an energy-efficient oven.
"Our idea was to make it fun. The protagonist is a cat and he fixes things that the family could be doing better, consumption of energy-wise," said research coordinator Miguel Casals.
Families taking part in a study can "compete" with participating neighbours and share their consumption scores on social media. But they are not required to play every day. Initial results comparing the energy bills of households playing the game showed a 7 per cent reduction in consumption. Smart energy meter data sensors were installed so researchers can monitor progress.
The EnerGAware initiative has a budget of €2 million (S$3.2 million) and is funded by the European Union.