By Jim Karpen on Thu, 05/10/2012
Yet one more novel use of an iPad: to communicate with orangutans. According to an AP report, the Miami Zoo is allowing its six orangutans use an iPad, though like their human counterparts, the interest in the gadget varies, with the young ones taking to it and the two older ones not showing much interest. The goal of the program is mental stimulation: like any intelligent being, if they don't get regular stimulation, they get bored and depressed. The orangutans are using an iPad app developed for autistic children. The screen displays objects, and when the trainer names an object, the orangutans touch it to identify it. The zoo sees this as a first step toward using technology to communicate with the orangutans, and eventually they hope to have large digital screens that visitors use to communicate with the orangutans.
Astonishingly, this is just one of many ways iPads are being used with these primates. A program called Orangutan Outreach is focused on building apps for orangutans, with zoos in Milwaukee, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Toronto, Houston, and other cities participating. One use will employ videoconferencing to connect orangutans with friends and family members that have been transferred to other zoos. "Primate playdates," they're calling it.