Orangutans at the Milwaukee Zoo are using the iPad to watch videos, play games, and create artwork. They’re even using Skype and FaceTime to communicate with friends and family at other zoos.
In Mexico, a bottlenose dolphin named Merlin has been using an iPad as a language interface. Merlin uses his nose to operate the touchscreen and his human partner is building a database of dolphin symbols.
To me, this is just the beginning. As orangutans and dolphins become more proficient with technology, these and other animals will eventually get their own e-mail, Facebook and Twitter accounts. (Hey, it worked for Angelina Jolie’s right leg.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see zoo admission costs go up just to cover outrageous texting fees.
Learning that orangutans and dolphins like the iPad, I decided to see what my pets think about it, starting with my parrot Amy. When I showed Amy the iPad, I held it close but just out of reach so she wouldn’t destroy it. Her reaction was very positive. Her pupils constricted, she made a range of happy noises, lifted her wings, and bounced – all signs of her excitement. Funny enough, her favorite appeared to be Angry Birds.
The dogs were a little tougher to please. I downloaded a few free apps for dogs and the only one they found exciting was an app that sounded like a squeaky toy. I tried a bark translator but didn’t find it credible. For example, I have a hard time believing my nearly hairless little dogs would say “Is it hot in here or is it just my fur?“.
Amy communicates fairly well but the language barrier with the dogs could use some help. I think it would be cool if my dogs and I could communicate through the iPad. It would be simple to build a language database because we’d only need a handful of icons such as food, water, outside, treat, and squirrel.
Call me old fashioned, but I’m not a fan of allowing them to text. Dogs are pack animals and texting would change their whole dynamic. I think they would become a lot like teenagers. Instead of running around at the dog park, they would gather in groups and only interact through their smart phones.
For now, we should keep an eye on orangutans and dolphins. I don’t mean to be a conspiracy theorist, but if they start using the iPad to communicate with each other, we may be in trouble.
May the farce be with you!