Atlanta Zoo’s Orangutans play video games!

Well hot dang, I was reading Omni Brain the other day, where Steve broke the news that Atlanta Zoo’s orangutans play video games. But I didn’t post about it, not because it ain’t primatology related news, but because there wasn’t a video to support it. In my mind, if I can’t see it, it is less real. I think Steve operates in the same way because in his post he made a call to locate the video. One hasn’t surfaced yet, but I figured that since Engadget and Digg have posted about this news, its legitimate enough to follow suite.

From Australia’s The Age, “Gaming apes wow zoogoers” the basis of this behavior is explained,

Orangutan shows off video game skills at Atlanta zoo“…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.”

The orangs actually have two games to play, one where its a matching game based on selecting,

“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 Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a partner in the project.”

I like this project. I think it gives us an insight into how complex these great apes are. I hope it does raise awareness that orangutans are really endangered, as intended by the zoo officials. Another side benefit, is that this is a unique form of enrichment for the orangutans. Definitely not the the traditional ‘hide and go seek’ method of placing treats in puzzles, but equally as challenging.

I was thinking maybe one day we can get Kanzi, the Pacman playing chimp, to play these two orangutans? Perhaps we can have a LAN-party or something?

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