Gaming apes wow zoogoers

gamingape.jpg

Getting apes to play video games seems like a logical plan. I have envisioned this idea for years… They need to get this ape connected with some Donkey Kong! Better yet, get him on XBox live with a head set to squawk at some of those foul 11 year olds that are talking smack!

I think the next experiment they do should definately involve the Wii… the zoo would have record attendance!! They could come up with some new ape games… I have lots of ideas…

Associated Press Article from April 12, 2007:
At 4, Bernas is not the computer wizard his mom is, but he is learning. Just the other day he used his lips and feet to play a game on the touch-screen monitor as his mom, Madu, swung from vines and climbed trees.

The two Sumatran orangutans are part of new Zoo Atlanta research that uses computer games to study the cognitive skills of the primates. The best part? Visitors to the US zoo get to watch their every computer move. The orangutans play the games on a touch screen built into a tree-like structure in the habitat to blend in with their environment. Visitors watch from a monitor in front of the orangutan exhibit.

Zoo officials hope opening the interactive research to the public will raise awareness of the world’s rapidly diminishing orangutan population, which is on track to disappear completely in the next decade. “The more we understand about orangutan’s cognitive processes, the more we’ll understand about what they need to survive in the wild,” said Tara Stoinski, manager of conservation partnerships for the zoo.

In one game, orangutans choose identical photographs or match orangutan sounds with photos of the animals. Correct answers mean food pellets. There also is a painting game where they can draw pictures by moving their hands and other body parts around the screen. Printouts of their masterpieces are on display in the zoo.

The computer games test the animals’ memory, reasoning and learning, spitting out sheets of data for researchers at the zoo and Atlanta’s Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, a partner in the project. Volunteers from IBM worked nearly 500 hours developing the games, tweaking until the activities were challenging enough for the orangutans.

The data will help researchers learn about orangutans’ socialising patterns, such as whether they mimic others or learn behaviour from scratch through trial and error, said Elliott Albers with the Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, a consortium of researchers at seven universities in the Atlanta area .

In the end, researchers hope the data can point to new conservation strategies so that the 37,000 orangutans living in the wild on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra do not continue to die off. Just two other US zoos – the National Zoo in Washington, DC, and Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago – are conducting similar research, but only the National Zoo and Zoo Atlanta allow visitors to watch, Stoinski said.

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