University of Melbourne Magazine

Project is primates’ play

  • Primates at Melbourne Zoo are getting into the swing of a new way to play.

    In a world first, researchers from Zoos Victoria and the University’s Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces are trialling “intelligent projection” technology to give orang-utans control over the games and applications they play to challenge their minds.

    While zoos around the world, including Melbourne, have for years been using computer tablets to enrich activities for their primates, the animals can smash these devices in minutes.

    Primates at Melbourne Zoo

    The computer games, painting applications and picture galleries being developed at Melbourne use projections, so the animals can use their whole bodies to activate the space.

    If the trial is successful, within a few years the orang-utans could be playing computer games with visitors whenever they want.

    Zoos Victoria’s animal welfare specialist Sally Sherwen (BSc 2007, MSc 2010) says previous research at the zoo has shown the orang-utans are keen to engage. “They enjoyed using the tablet but we wanted to give them something more, something they can use when they choose to,” she says.

    Learn more on Pursuit.