Lockdown: Pawing Around

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(Click for a larger view. For more of Matt Forcum’s comics, check out Robot Beach.)

If you lock down your mobile devices, chances are it’s because you don’t want your kids to have free access to them. Now, not only might your kids be a concern, but animals are becoming adept at controlling tablets and smartphones. Perhaps it’s time we take this opportunity to figure out how to train our four-legged – or even gilled – friends using these devices.

Most recently, orangutans have been given access to the iPad, as noted in this BBC article. Officials at the Milwaukee Zoo introduced iPads into the facility in May with the hopes of letting the primates watch their counterparts in other zoos.

“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.

“So if we incorporate cameras, they can watch each other,” conservationist Richard Zimmerman told the BBC.

And check out this cat cranking out a game of Fruit Ninja. The feline seems to be entertained and does pretty well for itself.

Even frogs are in on the mix. Watch how this frog easily demolishes an army of (virtual) ants on the Ant Smasher game.

Dolphins, often said to be one of the smartest creatures on the planet, began using iPads within months of the device’s debut as a way to communicate with humans, according to Ars Technica. Research scientist Jack Kassewitz modified an iPad to be controlled by the rostrum, or beak, of a dolphin. Kassewitz will show the dolphin an object in real life, and then, using a game, the dolphin selects an object with its rostrum on the iPad.

“Games are a relatively simple way to build an understanding between two animals—humans included,” Kassewitz told Ars. “Games require agreements to work, and agreements require some high-level thinking.” Ultimately, Kassewitz will build a library of symbols that dolphins can recognize that form the basis of “a complete language interface between humans and dolphins.”

Are mobile devices the new obedience classes? Will animals be trained using smartphones and tablets in the future? Perhaps instead of locking down our devices, we should be opening them up for our pets to see how they interact and learn. Just make sure to have a rag handy to wipe them down afterward.

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On January 9, 2012
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