Even our close genetic cousins the orangutans can’t get enough of the iPad.
The zoo uses software designed for humans with autism. The app, which wasn’t named, displays pictures of various objects. The trainer then names one of the objects and the orangutans press the corresponding photo.
Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program, says the iPad will help the orangutans communicate with people not trained in their sign language.
But there are a few downsides to handing an expensive piece of technology over to the apes. Because of the small screen, the orangutans often hit the wrong buttons or try to use their fingernails to touch the screen. And as many parents have found out, since the iPads are fragile, the orangutans can’t just run off with the tablet. A trainer must hold the unit during interactions.
“If I gave them the iPad, I could just basically hand them $600 and say, `Go have fun,”‘ Jacobs said. “So until we come up with a better screen or a better case, I’m going to hold onto the iPad.”
Long-term plans for the program include setting up a larger screen in the holding area that could withstand a pounding from the animal. Another screen would be placed outside for guests to ask orangutans questions and see their responses.
This isn’t the first time zoos have used the iPad with orangutans. Back in August of last year, we told you how a Milwaukee, Wis. zoo was experimenting with how orangutans interact with the tablet.
At the Los Angeles zoo, one enterprising photographer used an iPhone to help draw orangutans’ attention for some amazing, close-up photos.
And at the Miami zoo, just like with humans, Jacobs said the younger members of the clan have had no problem figuring out how to use the iPad.
“Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It’s like, ‘Oh, I get this,”‘ Jacobs said. “Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, ‘I’ve gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don’t need a computer.”‘
Kind of sounds like my house.
(Photo via Associated Press)