26 May 2015

Animals and Touchscreens Addendum

Last Friday’s review of tortoise research with a touchscreen computer (Tortoise Smarts) had me wondering about the use and scope of touchscreens in animal studies.

The finger-driven touchscreen was invented in 1965, became common by the 1990s and flourished in the 2000s. Though touchscreen studies with reptiles might be new, those with other animals seem to have tracked that progression and not only in a lab. Along with being used as tools for research, touchscreens are providing animal enrichment. Today’s addendum features notable examples.


Cambridge University’s Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute uses touchscreens for cognitive tests of mice and rats, comparing the results with those of humans. (www.neuroscience.cam.ac.uk/directory/profile.php?tjb1000)
The Regenstein Center for African Apes in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo uses touchscreens to monitor chimpanzees and gorillas as they sequence objects and react to the social cues embedded in a glance. (www.lpzoo.org/conservation-science/projects/ape-touch-screen-studies#Sequence)
Collaborators from the Messerli Research Institute and Clever Dog Lab at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, used touchscreens to test dogs’ ability to discriminate human emotions. (www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2015021313150070.html)
The former EarthTrust Delphis project conducted dolphin research with touchscreens (www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFVu9cyTshA); more recently, Sweden’s Lund University tested dolphins’ echolocation skill with an acoustically operated touchscreen. (www.thedodo.com/tech-savvy-dolphins-order-food-359981812.html)
Iowa University researchers used a touchscreen to test pigeons’ ability to learn patterned-string tasks, a common measure of perceptual and cognitive capabilities. (www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-05/31/the-inevitable-pigeon-uprising)
Young penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Calif., enjoy chasing a virtual mouse in a touchscreen game made for cats. (www.aquariumofpacific.org/blogs/comments/ipad-playing_penguins)
P.S.

-Brief history of touchscreen technology: arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/04/04/from-touch-displays-to-the-surface-a-brief-history-of-touchscreen-technology/
-Touchscreen cognition study of bears in Animal Behaviour: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347212002126
-Recent touchscreen research for assessing the working memory of a mouse in Experimental Neurobiology: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363337/
-Examples of zoo touchscreen studies of apes and chimps:
Atlanta: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21319214
Houston: oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/150918
-Older Smithsonian Magazine article on Kanzi the bonobo ape that communicates via touchscreen lexigrams: www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/speaking-bonobo-134931541/?no-ist

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