REEL TO REAL ► Rise of The Planet of the iApes – Orangutans Taught to Talk With Tablet

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The Gadget Helpline‘s REEL TO REAL is a regular feature to the blog, aimed at tech and film fanatics, which will reveal how the sci-fi and futuristic gadgets we see on screen in movies and television are making their way into real-life. Take a seat, grab your popcorn and enjoy the show!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave us a never-before-seen look at the origins of the future Earth inhabited and ruled by intellectually evolved primates. We got to see how the apes gained their intelligence through genetics, but away from the big screen sci-fi series our hairy pals the Orangutans (translating to “Person of the Forest”) have been participating in some higher learning exercises of their own using iPads.

As well as having the area to play and physically exercise, the creatures need an equal amount of mental stimulation and a dozen Orangutans at Miami Zoo have been given Apple tablets to learn from and better enable them to “talk” to their human keepers. The ape friendly apps loaded onto the iPads have a selection of special designed functions are actually designed for autistic humans.

Objects appear on screen for the Orangutans to touch if they want a banana, for a stereotypical example, as well as the trainer they want to bring it to them. But not only do the apps help the apes communicate their food orders but it can also help the zoo keepers know if a furry fellow needs medical aid and if so, where on the body of the animal is hurting.

Orangutans are known to be trainable to sign language and can express a range of emotions through gesture and this method offers another way for them to communicate. Future plans include video calling so that Orangutan families which have been broken up during relocation can stay “in touch” with one another.

The trainers do however keep the fragile iPads in their own hands rather than let the apes hold it in their own powerful paws which would destroy the delicate (and expensive) device – and forbid they ever figure out how one works for themselves. Next these clever primates will be making their own civilisation!

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