Apps for Apes

Adapted from The Vancouver Sun

Level 3

The apes at a park in Florida are just like people.
The twins, age 8, love their iPad. The teenagers like it, too.
The seniors are not interested.
The park is letting six orangutans use an iPad to “talk”.
Orangutans belong to the ape family.
Some trainers have also used iPads with dolphins.

How does it work?
The screen shows pictures of different things.
The trainer names one of the pictures.
Apes use their hands because they cannot talk.
The apes press the correct button for the name.
They can also show what they want or need.
Push a button for water. Push another button for food.

Apps for apes
Richard Zimmerman works with orangutans.
And he is building an “Apps for Apes” program for the iPad.
He uses old, donated iPads.
Orangutans are very intelligent, says Zimmerman.
They must stay active. Apes get depressed if they are not active.
A thinking activity using the iPad keeps them happy.

Problems with iPads
The iPad screen is small. The apes sometimes hit the wrong buttons.
Sometimes the apes use their fingernails.
Then the touch screen on the iPad won’t work.
The trainers must hold the computers. This way, the apes won’t break them.

Future plans
The staff want to build a larger, stronger iPad screen for the apes in the zoo.
The public would have another screen to use.
People could ask the orangutans questions. Then the apes could answer.
Imagine “talking” to an orangutan!

Apes are being taught to communicate on donated iPads like the one pictured.