Spring 2013 Magazine


And you thought iPads were just for you to have fun with and use for work. It isn't exactly the Angry Birds but at the Miami Zoo's Jungle Island, handlers are interacting with orangutans by using the iPad. The orangutans identify items on the tablet with which they are familiar. Then they express their likes and needs. They can do this through using an app that was designed for communicating with autistic children.

The handlers might ask the apes to pick out the coconut. When the ape picks it out, the handlers can build on that. The handlers plan to put up pictures of all the vegetables they have in stock and allow the apes to pick the ones they like. Then they will be able to have a choice in what they want to eat. This technique gives them a chance to make choices.

Orangutans are smart but they don't have voice boxes so communication can be difficult. Usually the handlers use sign language with them. Using the iPad simply gives the orangutans another way to communicate with humans. It also provides them with mental stimulation and allows those who don't know sign language to interact with humans better.

The handlers hold the iPad outside the cage because the orangutans would try to take it apart to see how it works if the iPad were inside the cage. They also have very tough nails which would damage the iPad.

As a future project, they hope to set up a form of video conferencing so apes in different zoos can meet and interact with each other. Orangutan Outreach is working on this with donated iPads. They hope this will bring more awareness of orangutans which are an endangered species due to deforestation.

(Source: www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/05/orangutans-use-the-ipad)

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