42 Students Create an AR Mobile Game App to Increase Animal Shelter Adoption

L to R: Kristine and Mi with former shelter cat Lime


Shelter Animals in Need of a Home

According to the ASPCA, “Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats…Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).” The good news is that the number of pet adoptions have risen, the ASPCA notes that around half the pets who enter shelters are adopted each year, “Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).”

The First All Women Team in 42’s Accelerate

The first all women team in 42’s Accelerate, Kristine Sonu and Mi Hwangbo, are hoping to increase the number of pet adoptions in our local pet shelters through their AR (augmented reality) Mobile Game App. Kristine and Mi both attended UC Davis and first met in 2014. Kristine majored in animal science and Mi majored in animal biology and they were  in a class together. A year later they became housemates, and another year later they became roommates. In 2017 they attended the July piscine together with no programming experience at all. They were science students and now they are doing 3D modeling through Blender.

Using AR to Make a Positive Impact in the World

Kristine and Mi are passionate animal lovers who are hoping to create a difference in pet adoption through their AR mobile app. There are other ways in which AR can be used to better lives. According to Mashable, AR can be used to help you navigate a new city, to enhance the museum experience, and can even be used in safety and rescue operations. Kristine and Mi are hoping that potential pet adopters will be able to get a better idea of the roles and responsibilities of owning a pet before they bring them home. That way, they hope to reduce the number of pets adopted through shelters that are brought back.

We sat down with Kristine and Mi to learn more about Cupet:

What is the inspiration behind Cupet?

Kristine: Since we are animal lovers, we have been wanting to do something about the high number of stray cats for more than a year. We did the Unity piscine and talked about doing our own project. Mi suggested this idea and we talked about it and expanded the idea from there.

Mi: We are aware of the issue of stray animals. But people don’t know how many stray animals there are because they usually hide. We want to make a Pokémon style AR map that places animals with information from the local shelter. This will give potential pet owners a virtual opportunity to spend time with them and get a sense that there are animals who need a home. Because we are using the local animal shelter data, people can see the information and the shelter. It will help pets get adopted faster so stray animals will have room in the shelter. We talked about how we wanted to make a program to help animals. AR gives a virtual character in the real world and it seems more real than any other game.

How does Cupet work?

Mi: The first part is the map part. With Pokémon Go, you have to go out and find the animal. What is unique about Cupet is that there are animals that will go up to you but most will take a few days to approach you so you can bring them into the shelter. Users can offer a treat or food to the animal to earn their trust and bring them into the shelter.

It is kind of like a Tamagotchi game. Animals can walk around and do their thing in the shelter. The player will have to bring food and play with them. If it is a dog they have to walk them outside and clean up after them. If one of the animals they bring in is antisocial they will give them personal care before they go in the shelter. When they become happy, they will be up for adoption. The virtual shelter has a limit of how many animals it can care for, just like a real physical animal shelter.

Kristine: We used Unity, AR Core, and Blender to create the game.

What Part of the Project Have You Worked On So Far?

Kristine: Right now we only have the model.  Mi did the modeling for the cat, and for the furniture, and I am going to do the modeling for the dog. We are making our stacks. Starting today we are working on Unity. We haven’t separated the work for the project yet.

What has been the most Difficult Aspect So Far?

Kristine: Blender, making a model. We haven’t done anything like this before, because we were studying the science part not the art. The program is kind of confusing, there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube. I thought I loved art and drawing, but 3D modeling is totally different.

Mi: Art isn’t my strength. In my case I prefer numbers than art right now. It was really hard to work on the 3D modeling. Building the minimum viable product for the hackathon in one week was easier than this part.

What have you Enjoyed Most About Your Project So Far?

Mi: Actually the cat animation was pretty fun. It was hard because you have to change every joint for every movement, but it is pretty fun making a lot of animations.

Kristine: The dog model. Mine is not quite done yet, but putting the time and effort in will be satisfying when it becomes a real model.

What have you Learned from this Project So Far?

Kristine: Blender. For me, we have 42 Accelerate meetings every Monday and I hate public speaking but I think I am getting used to it. It was my first day presenting today, before that Mi was doing all of the presentations.

Mi: Time management. We have due dates for 42 Accelerate, three months of due dates. 3D modeling and shader in Unity determines how the character gets the light. I did that yesterday and it was pretty fun, a lot of math goes in there.

What Future do you see for Cupet?

Kristine: No more stray animals. Hopefully we can make people realize how important it is to adopt from the shelter and not buy animals. We were thinking of creating a prospective owner feedback system for the shelter. If someone wants to adopt from the shelter they will go through a review process. The shelter will see the ID of the future pet owner and can look into the database to see how they treated the animal and gauge how responsible they are.

Mi: One of our hopes is to lower the dissolution rate of people bringing back animals from the shelter after they adopt them.  Shelters will be able to see how many times they fed and played with the virtual animal. They will have to walk the AR animal around, we do have a street part where it might be a good combination.


Lime was the inspiration behind the design of the AR cat

Meet the Team


Name:  Kristine Sonu

Hometown:  I was born in Missouri because my parents were getting their PhDs. When I was 4 I went back to Korea and lived most of my life there until I came back to the U.S. in 2006 for high school.  

Interests: Scuba Diving (I got licensed), snowboarding, swimming and rock climbing

Dream Job/Career Interests: Definitely a software engineer, right now I am focusing on Cupet.


Name:  Mi Hwangbo

Hometown:  I was born in Korea but came to the U.S. when I was 12.

Interests: Active outdoor activities and reading

Dream Job/Career Interests: I am thinking of getting a job related to Unity or mobile gaming.


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published by Stacey Faucett – June 5, 2019