Orangutans Learning To Play Xbox To Fight Boredom In Zoo

There’s now one less divide between humans and orangutans.

One of mankind’s closest relatives is learning how to play Xbox video games thanks to researchers who hope the interactive technology will boost the animals’ minds, spirits and social interactions while in captivity.

Malu, a 12-year-old male at Australia’s Melbourne Zoo, became one of the first testers this week after introduced to a custom-made Xbox Kinect game that uses motion sensors for control, researchers announced Monday.

In photos and video taken by the University of Melbourne’s Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces, Malu is seen tapping and brushing lights projected onto his enclosure’s floor, causing various responses.

“Spying the projected red dot moving on the floor he immediately went over to it and kissed it. The dot duly exploded and when it reappeared he kissed it again, suggesting the orangutans are indeed keen to use more than their hands to interact,” researchers stated in a Microsoft Centre release.

He’s also seen exploring the game’s abilities by bringing in items like straw and placing the objects over the game’s projection, seemingly to test its reaction.

Right now the game is relatively simple, but researchers say they hope they’ll get to a level where the primates can play with humans — like guests at the zoo. They also would like to see painting applications and picture galleries designed specifically for orangutans.

Researchers say this is the first project of its kind in the world.

“It is well-recognized that orangutans, and great apes in general, require considerable enrichment including problem-solving tasks designed to challenge their highly evolved cognitive skills,” Dr. Marcus Carter, a research fellow with the program, said in the release.

Though the idea may sound like it’s purely fun and games, Zoos Victoria’s animal welfare specialist Sally Sherwen stressed that these highly intelligent animals, which share —> Read More