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Idle Science

Orangutans To Skype Between Zoos With iPads 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the 2011-in-a-nutshell dept.
MrSeb writes "For the last six months, orangutans — those great, hairy, orange apes that go 'ook' a lot — at Milwaukee Zoo have been playing games and watching videos on Apple's iPad, but now their keepers and the charity Orangutan Outreach want to go one step further and enable ape-to-ape video chat via Skype or FaceTime. 'The orangutans loved seeing videos of themselves — so there is a little vanity going on — and they like seeing videos of the orangutans who are in the other end of the enclosure,' Richard Zimmerman of Orangutan Outreach said. 'So if we incorporate cameras, they can watch each other.' And thus the idea of WiFi video chat between orangutans — and eventually between zoos — was born. It might seem like folly, but putting (ruggedized!) iPads into the hands of apes could really revolutionize our understanding of great ape behavior."
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Orangutans To Skype Between Zoos With iPads

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  • Sexting... (Score:5, Funny)

    by j35ter (895427) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:18PM (#38541870)
    Yay :)
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:19PM (#38541880)
    Let's put it in schools!

    Sorry, I just had to. Still, the fact that we have software that is simple enough for apes to use probably means that we crossed a usability threshold at some point in the past few years. Apes have similar psychology and brain structures to humans (this should make sense) so we seem to have discovered more "natural" computer interfaces.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:25PM (#38541964)

      I think you might be going a little far here. If you watch the video, the apps they can actually use are things like "touch the screen and it changes color". And it's not like they can actually launch an app themselves, or pick a video and watch it. They're not about to open up a Skype phonebook and say "I want to call Ookokook", the trainer would has to do everything and then hold it up for them.

      • by The Pirou (1551493) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:44PM (#38542134)

        I think you might be going a little far here. If you watch the video, the apps they can actually use are things like "touch the screen and it changes color". And it's not like they can actually launch an app themselves, or pick a video and watch it. They're not about to open up a Skype phonebook and say "I want to call Ookokook", the trainer would has to do everything and then hold it up for them.

        Just because these particular Orangutans haven't learned (or might not have the capacity) how to properly utilize an iPad in the way that humanity has, doesn't mean that given the opportunity and the funding of such research in regards to apes that such walls can't eventually be torn down.

        It is a relatively simple process to program apps and change the icons of apps to lexigrams geared towards apes, and I find the idea of giving apes like Kanzi, as well as other apes that have worked extensively with primatologists, exposure to such technology as worthy enough to hold sufficient merit.

        Much like learning a foreign language, if we teach all these exposed and inclined apes the same 'words' it isn't a huge leap to believe that in a few generations it could manifest itself as something that is passed on within the confines of each society of apes from generation to generation.

        Even across species Kanzi the Bonobo picked up some ASL from watching videos of Koko the Gorilla. With a little determination on our part, this could be the start of something much greater.

        Humans came up the hard way, but that doesn't mean that apes have to go that route.

        • Hmm... (Score:2, Troll)

          by denzacar (181829)

          Can't tell if serious... [memegenerator.net]

          • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

            by xMrFishx (1956084) on Friday December 30, 2011 @04:14PM (#38542396)

            Can't tell if serious... [memegenerator.net]

            or just monkeying around.

          • To my downmodder... (Score:5, Informative)

            by denzacar (181829) on Friday December 30, 2011 @04:37PM (#38542600) Journal

            Please read the following part of the parent post out loud and tell me it isn't even a tiny bit ambiguous.

            It is a relatively simple process to program apps and change the icons of apps to lexigrams geared towards apes, and I find the idea of giving apes like Kanzi, as well as other apes that have worked extensively with primatologists, exposure to such technology as worthy enough to hold sufficient merit.

            Much like learning a foreign language, if we teach all these exposed and inclined apes the same 'words' it isn't a huge leap to believe that in a few generations it could manifest itself as something that is passed on within the confines of each society of apes from generation to generation.

            Even across species Kanzi the Bonobo picked up some ASL from watching videos of Koko the Gorilla. With a little determination on our part, this could be the start of something much greater.

            Humans came up the hard way, but that doesn't mean that apes have to go that route.

            Just to clarify, paragraphs above include:
            - proposal for development of software, GUI and an alphabet aimed at apes.
            - describing equipping apes with 21st century entertainment technology as "worthy enough to hold sufficient merit".
            - inventing an "ape Esperanto", teaching it to apes - hoping it will catch on as their Lingua Simia,
            - the following line: "Kanzi the Bonobo picked up some ASL from watching videos of Koko the Gorilla".
            - and finally, suggestion that apes SHOULD aim for some not clearly defined position (Evolutionary? Cultural? Civilizational? Consumerist? Political?...) which is currently being occupied by humans.

            • Please read the following part of the parent post out loud and tell me it isn't even a tiny bit ambiguous.

              Just to clarify, paragraphs above include: - proposal for development of software, GUI and an alphabet aimed at apes.

              Yeah, so? Have you never used photoshop before? Never edited/designed an icon? Mucked about with fonts?
              As I've already referenced Kanzi, we'll stick with him for a moment. Yes, it is a simple matter to develop software that would work on a structurally fortified iPad. Hell, you could probably port it from existing software [youtube.com]. Naturally more lexigraphs would need to be developed as each generation learned and adapted to a larger vocabulary, much as Kanzi did better than his mother at learning.

              - describing equipping apes with 21st century entertainment technology as "worthy enough to hold sufficient merit".

              As partially depi

              • I am rather certain (above 90%) that you are not trolling, and that you are actually serious about your ideas and views.
                Sadly, I am also quite certain that the issue of ape education and improvement, though being something that I am barely able to wright with a straight face, is a matter of great importance to you.
                I say "sadly" cause it reminds me of the view that religious people have regarding their religious beliefs.
                I.e. Not (really) open to discussion.

                Now... I could argue the points where you are wrong

            • by khallow (566160)

              Just to clarify, paragraphs above include:
              - proposal for development of software, GUI and an alphabet aimed at apes.
              - describing equipping apes with 21st century entertainment technology as "worthy enough to hold sufficient merit".
              - inventing an "ape Esperanto", teaching it to apes - hoping it will catch on as their Lingua Simia,
              - the following line: "Kanzi the Bonobo picked up some ASL from watching videos of Koko the Gorilla".
              - and finally, suggestion that apes SHOULD aim for some not clearly defined position (Evolutionary? Cultural? Civilizational? Consumerist? Political?...) which is currently being occupied by humans.

              It's worth noting that the obvious counter argument is that the iPad is already targeted at very close relatives of these apes. I doubt it'll take that much work to come up with a user interface that Great Apes and other primates can use.

              As to the last suggestion, the more varied the inhabitants of our society are, the more interesting that society will be. There is nothing inherently magical about being human. The Great Apes have most of those characteristics as well, intelligence, ability to manipulate

              • by denzacar (181829)

                It's worth noting that the obvious counter argument is that the iPad is already targeted at very close relatives of these apes. I doubt it'll take that much work to come up with a user interface that Great Apes and other primates can use.

                Developing something for kids is not the same as developing something for adults.
                Extrapolate that to developing software and GUI for apes, supposedly to match their needs and requests - when only a tiniest fraction of them can relate only the very basic concepts and words.
                "Blue-Blue-Banana-Happy" is not really something one could consider software development documentation.

                As to the last suggestion, the more varied the inhabitants of our society are, the more interesting that society will be. There is nothing inherently magical about being human.

                "Interesting" != "Better"
                Or even "good" most of the time. "May you live in interesting times" is not considered a curse for nothing.
                Plen

                • by khallow (566160)

                  Developing something for kids is not the same as developing something for adults.

                  So what? Neither is developing something for people with different desires such as "surf the web" versus "balance my business's budget". I didn't say "One size fits all" but rather that it wouldn't that hard to develop.

                  Extrapolate that to developing software and GUI for apes, supposedly to match their needs and requests - when only a tiniest fraction of them can relate only the very basic concepts and words.

                  Welcome to a typical problem of software development.

                  As to the last suggestion, the more varied the inhabitants of our society are, the more interesting that society will be. There is nothing inherently magical about being human.

                  "Interesting" != "Better"
                  Or even "good" most of the time. "May you live in interesting times" is not considered a curse for nothing.
                  Plenty of "interesting" people in jails, insane asylums, on the internet... Still wouldn't want 99.997% of them anywhere near me or my food.

                  Point here is that a society can be interesting due to its dysfunctional nature or it can be interesting due to the variety of its people. One is better than the other.

                  And while there is no SINGLE thing that makes us magical there are MANY things which together make us special among primates AND animals. The fact that we are communicating through the use of electrons right now, while other primates can barely comprehend using a rock to smash things, pretty much demonstrates how god damn special we are.

                  But a "specialness" that we can bring to other species. Obviously, I don

          • Can't tell if serious... [memegenerator.net]

            I'm serious enough that I'd vote for a 1 cent county tax to give more money to the local primate center down the street from my house (Yerkes NPRC) and vote against taxes aimed at giving money to the children/schools in Dekalb County. Too bad life and policy doesn't behave that way where I live, but I digress.

            Allegedly Kanzi understands hundreds of lexigraphs, as well several thousand English words including complex sentences and embedded clauses. While some nay-sayers (often supported only by their rel

        • by fotoguzzi (230256)
          ASL.... I thought for a moment that you were referring to A/S/L.
      • They're not about to open up a Skype phonebook and say "I want to call Ookokook", the trainer would has to do everything and then hold it up for them.

        Especially since Ookokook unfriended him on Facebook....

        You're right, they need constant supervision with the tablets, they are not allowed to even hold the tablets. Imo it sounds much like the great revellation that Orangutans enjoy watching TV [deseretnews.com] last year.

        I was also taken aback by the sight of the primates penned up in such small cages - it looked worse than the cages used in Rise Of the Planet Of The Apes.

        • and I resent all these comments so far. You guys are just down on me because my user ID is so recent. Really I just want to chill in my cage and look at pron and if facebook is useful for anything, maybe I can guilt Eastwood into sending some friggin' bananas to me. Bastard left me hanging. Never answered my calls. At least I don't live in my mom's basement like you guys. I have my dignity! And before anyone says it - I am Ookokook - I am Ookokook - I am Ookokook. Yeah, even us apes know the jokes...
      • Good News. Quick. Send David Cameron the tutorial!

      • oh come on, don't spoil the fun!
      • Another reason tablets were a dumb idea for this purpose. Put a big screen and camera against one wall of the enclosure, and the protect it with a thick piece of lexan. No devices breaking and they can have an always-on videoconferencing wall.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let's put it in schools!

      I don't think the lower primates are ready for it yet.

    • by Kenja (541830) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:53PM (#38542224)
      Have you not heard? We fixed all the schools already. Children are no longer hungry and the economy is going great. Now we can dedicate all our resources to getting monkeys to use Twitter.
  • So it's just like human behavior. Spend some time looking at themselves, then doing a video chat with someone they could just go over and talk to. If anything, they're ahead of humans just because they don't take pictures at MySpace angles.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Corbets (169101) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:24PM (#38541952) Homepage

      So it's just like human behavior. Spend some time looking at themselves, then doing a video chat with someone they could just go over and talk to. If anything, they're ahead of humans just because they don't take pictures at MySpace angles.

      What? No teenage chimps taking self portraits from above as they eat a banana? What do the dirt old orangutans do with all their free time, then?

    • by skids (119237)

      Look at the bright side. The next time someone acts like they are computer-hip because they use skype, you can bring up this news article.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:22PM (#38541914)

    Planet of the Apes!

  • BTW, I hate them too.

    • I think this discussion should be worried about the potential for racist comments rather than the homophobic as you suggested. The biggest clue to this is the word "ook" being used in the summary.

      The scientific potential in this is that researchers could learn to understand and quantify the simplicity of the behaviors which lead to the more complex. It brings us back into the days of Jane Goodall, [janegoodall.org] Koko the gorilla, [koko.org] and the Save the Gay Whales [imdb.com] campaigns of our childhoods.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:22PM (#38541926)

    My mother-in-law already uses Skype!

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:30PM (#38542010) Homepage Journal

    I must admit that the IPAD has been a boon to the low-functioning autistic community. If human beings without speech can use the IPAD to talk, why not apes?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      All the autistic-directed software I've seen seems to have parents/facilitators guiding a kid's hand ouija board style, or if not guiding their hand, holding the ipad from behind and shifting the screen so they press a proper button.

      Do you have any video clips of an autistic child using an ipad laying on the floor or holding the ipad themselves and typing out sentences without any sort of guidance? I'd love to see a demo of the child using the software to answer a question where the facilitator/parent doesn

      • by mortonda (5175)

        Check out http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june11/jesseext_04-21.html [pbs.org] and related pages on that site. As the parent of an autistic child, I can clearly see the difference.

      • I know a young autistic man- age 22- 3 verbal words in his vocabulary- who uses a PICS-to-Speech synthesizer program on his IPAD to communicate. I don't have any video of him however. I will try to remember, next time I see him, to take some on my phone and upload to Youtube for the next time this debate comes up.

        He's like my special needs son- "facilitating" him on his pad would be impossible, unless all you want him to click is "no dad". Heck, at 22, he's larger and more muscular than his father- getti

    • Sorry, did you just make the argument that autistic people are little more than apes?

      • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2011 @05:18PM (#38543014) Homepage Journal

        Actually, I'm autistic myself, high functioning. But I'd say all homo sapiens are little more than apes- about 4% of our DNA is different. Part of that 4% is the power of verbal coherent speech, so yes, low functioning autistics are a bit closer to apes than the rest of humanity, in that neither apes nor low functioning autistics have verbal speech ability.
        Much has been proven that apes are a LOT closer to us than some people would like to believe.

      • Oh, and I can binary finger AND thumb count to one thousand twenty three. Why do you stop at one hundred thirty two instead of two hundred fifty five? That's only 10000100!

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Sorry, did you just make the argument that autistic people are little more than apes?

        I'll make that argument about people in general, if you like.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:32PM (#38542016)

    That's just the "Occupy Zoo!" crowd!

  • .. did we not learn our lesson from Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
  • Don't call them monkeys or they'll go Librarian-poo.
  • Nothing hotter than ape to ape Skype fapping

  • They will go work in libraries.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:36PM (#38542066)

    "Putting iPads into the hands of apes could really revolutionize our understanding of great ape behavior."

    Thought we did that in a lot of legislative bodies already...

    • by sconeu (64226)

      Now the Orangs are going to spend all their time playing Angry Birds!

    • "Thought we did that in a lot of legislative bodies already...

      Pssst, i realize that was a pun, but don't make *that* kind of comparison in public! or things will start to get very strange around here.

      If the public realizes that the Orangutans can catch onto technology much faster than the current legislature, then the Orangutans will be brought in to run the country much more efficiently, and for just bananas. (I tapped into their skype network, and I have personal knowledge that the Orangutans are already plotting against SOPA, and are intending to vote it down qui

      • Once the Orangutans get their seat of power they will likely bring in the Gorillas for security enforcement details, and the next thing you know we have a live Planet Of The Apes situation going on! There will be pandemonium, screaming, people running crazy in the streets, you know, pretty much just the the usual. Nobody will even notice the shift of power until the legislature itself realizes the pay checks have stopped coming in, and they are then forced to give up their Learjets and resign from the DC ar

    • by antdude (79039)

      Does President GWB have an iPad now? :P

  • Get your comments off my blog, you damn dirty ape!

  • It is interesting that people attribute these things to the iPad, which is a nice tablet, when Skype has been around a long time, and I run it on my cheapo HP Touchpad all the time.
    • by Noughmad (1044096)

      No, not really. In the news, if at least one of the authors has a cousin that once saw the Apple logo, then Apple gets all the credit.

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:43PM (#38542128)

    Apple products found the ideal user market.

    Let the flaming begin.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Banana phone!

  • by squidflakes (905524) on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:46PM (#38542160) Homepage

    I'd like to see what happens. Will one troupe make threat displays against the other troupe, or are they aware that there isn't any real territorial dispute because of the lack of pheromone triggers in the air?

    Ooooh, and I wonder if I can get a grant to buy a few pressure-adapted sealed tablets with a floating antennas so I can get some squid-to-squid Skyping going.

    Fun Tip! Next time anyone goes to a zoo or aquarium that has an octopus or especially a cuttlefish tank, take a small mirror. Hold it up so the cuttlefish can see itself and watch the fun!

  • I for one welcome our ruggedized I-Pad welding, video chatting orangutans overlords :)
  • Hello (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2011 @03:55PM (#38542238)
    YES, THIS IS APE.
    I AM APE.
    APE.



    insert lameness-filter filler here...
  • It was my understanding that apes do not possess any actual language.
  • ...sure enough, their users must be apes.

  • any extra insight into ape behavior. We already know that apes/chimps learn to use tools from other apes/chimps, this would merely be an extension of that. I seriously doubt they would do much more with the device than click the icon they were taught shows them other apes or gets them to their favorite game.
    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      I can see this benefiting the animals directly by extending the contact and interaction between themselves and others of the species they do not interact with normally. This could lead to a better quality of life for the animals.
  • I have this sneaking suspicion that no matter how may of them we give iPads to, we won't be seeing them produce Shakespeare's complete works anytime soon.
    • I think twitter on the ipad/iphone has proved this already, much as usenet proved it for a previous generation.
  • Apple->Apeple
    iPad->apePad
    app->ape
    Skype->Skyape
    FaceTime->RedButt

    Oh, and thank you to the AC who mentioned Gorilla(R) Glass
  • Maybe if we can understand orangutans we just might learn to understand republicans.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    how do they agree to the terms of service? do the terms of service even apply to non-human intelligences?
    we need to get the ape lawyers involved.

  • I bet that they don't get to watch any Planet of the Apes video. Do video ratings apply to apes? (under 15s must be accompanied by their keeper) A devise so simple that an Ape can use it, meanwhile many DVD/VCR clocks still flash 12:00. Given that the iPads have cameras and video editing software, will we see a Youtube called The Ape Escape? 1000's are hungry in many parts of the world, and we find the money to fund iPads for apes, WTF?

  • Yeah, I see that every... the coffee shop is full of... eesh, I can't do it. Too easy.

  • Hmm, ipads for are Apes. They are used to being walled. I guess Apes are not good enough to get Android tablets :)

    (Sorry, just couldn't resist. Comedy? OK, I will keep my day job in tech).

  • From the Android OS API reference:
    isUserAMonkey () [android.com]: returns "true" if the user interface is currently being messed with by a monkey.

    Does it mean that this function call does not exist on iOS ?

  • They're one step closer to taking over....
  • >It might seem like folly, but putting (ruggedized!) iPads into the hands of apes could really revolutionize our understanding of great ape behavior.
    Or... our own.
  • This has to be one of the dumbest articles -- and by dumb, I mean written by an ignorant and stupid person -- that has ever been posted to Slashdot.

    Really? Has it really been established that orangutans "go ook a lot"? Is that one of their defining characteristics?

    I find it strange that the same article would go on to explain that orangutans are intelligent, inquisitive, and self-aware -- miming things that orangutan researchers might say, while ignoring what those adjectives actually mean -- and then say s

  • ... it ain't got nothing on what you're gonna see once you put digital cameras into the hands of apes.

  • So, like yeah, it has to be said. So now Apple will start using Orange Utangs (sic) to make they're shit so is they dont have to deal with the fall out from the FoxCon suicides an bad conditions and all a that. I feel sorry for the Chinese workers. But not mush. But if they can get the ape folks to do the manyoufacturing in the USA, USA, USA, then I'm all for it. WOOHOO!!!! WOOHOO!!!! WOOHOO!!!!
  • ...All they wanted to do was play Angry Turds.
  • ...Orangutans have better tech than I do!

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton

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