Using technology to solve problems

Using touch screens with the orangutans

At the Atlanta Zoo touchscreens, laptops and a knowledge tree are being used to provide enrichment activities for the Gorillas and Orangutans as well as to conduct research into the cognitive abilities of the animals. This research began in 2007.

Click here to try out one of the games the orangutans play in their exhibit.

The Zoo also provides natural enrichment activities for their gorillas including adding piles of leaves to their enclosures.

In early 2016, Melbourne Zoo staff began working with researchers from the University of Melbourne and Microsoft. They developed a system, using modified Xbox Kinect 3D technology and projections on the floor of the orangutan enclosure, to allow the primates to play simple problem-solving games. The orangutans had already been using painting and musical iPad apps with their keepers, through the bars. In the future, the researchers are hoping to design apps that will allow the orangutans to interact with the zoo’s human visitors.

Experiments like these have the potential to be quite controversial. There is an ongoing debate about whether we should be providing zoo animals with access to technology or keeping them in enclosures that are as natural as possible? In the Zoo Atlanta research, the scientists investigated visitor perceptions about the use of technology in enclosures. They concluded that the visitors were highly positive about its value, particularly if they had had the opportunity to observe the orangutans interacting with the touch screen.

 

Resources

http://www.zooatlanta.org/home/research_projects/orangutan_learning_tree_project

http://www.zooatlanta.org/home/research_projects/primate_research

http://www.orangutanssp.org/uploads/2/4/9/9/24992309/beckettorangposter.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-03/orangutans-in-melbourne-zoo-playing-computer-games/7136478