Video Games: An Effective Teaching Tool for Animals as Well

Zap is a full body experience for these guys.

So many studies have proven that the human brain can benefit from video games, but that may be just scratching the surface. A team of researchers in Australia decided to push things even further than just a human brain to try a series of tests out on orangutans.

Using a special Xbox Kinect set up, and a game the Melbourne Zoo developed called Zap, the researchers hoped to teach the orangutan’s better problem solving skills. Zap basically functioned as a red dot on the screen that would explode after the primate and a human both touch it. Zap is the only game available right now for this particular research but there is a desire to make more.

“As interactive game designers we use what we call participatory design. We work with the people who use the products and they provide input and feedback for prototypes,” says Sarah Webber, a PhD candidate working on the project.

“You can’t have those conversations with animals, so we have to find new ways to include them as participants in the design process. We know apes can successfully use touch screens but they are very task orientated, so we want to see if we can devise experiences that are inherently engaging to them.”

The team has tried using touch screen tablets with the orangutans, even creating an app called Orangstram that would allow the primates to take pictures of themselves and peruse a library. However the tablets have had their limitations.

The Kinect games will essentially be an extension of how much farther they can take that original research. Even though this is the first experiment of its kind, the Melbourne team is dedicated to push the limits to see the true capability video games have on the brain.

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