Researchers Are Teaching Orangutans to Make Music Via Video Games, Because Science

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Researchers are looking into new ways to create bonds with captive orangutans, inspired by many of the ways humans engage with each other: music and video games

Australia's Melbourne Zoo is currently experimenting with video games implementing 3-D cameras and hopes to soon have the highly intelligent animals producing their own music through an interactive game, ABC's Catalyst reported. The hope is to set up interactive games for zoo-goers to play with the animals, while providing new ways to keep the forward-thinking species happy, occupied and engaged while in captivity. 

Melbourne Zoo researchers are studying how orangutans interact with music and video games.
Source: 
Mic/ABC's Catalyst

The primates seem to have an affinity for technology: the video games being created by Melbourne Zoo utilize the Xbox One's 3-D Kinect technology to provide colorful lights that flash and glide through the orangutan cage. One game allows the primate to match the placement of their hand on a color and shape with that of a human watching on the other side of the glass. When the pair matches their hands on the same virtual object, the colors will burst or glow. However, as researchers noted to Catalyst, the primates enjoy observing the reflection of the lights on their skin more than anything. 

The experiments have already had a positive impact on the chimps' mental engagement, and gotten them some good attention from zoo patrons.

In order to produce music, researchers are planning on creating sounds based off the orangutans' movements around the cage. Eventually, the intelligent primates will likely be able to produce a variety of music depending on the calculated ways they move their body while playing the game. 

"It's perfectly suited to an orangutan's physical abilities. It just involves walking and moving an arm," Catalyst noted.

Who knows? Maybe we'll have the world's first orangutan album before Frank Ocean's next project. We shall call it, Channel Orangutan.

Read more:
Listen to the Music That Scientists Have Developed for Cats
Run the Jewels' 'Meow the Jewels' Captures How Brilliantly Terrible Modern Music Can Be
These Genius New Pants Could Give People Who Can't Speak a Way to Communicate


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Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta is a culture reporter at Mic, covering news, music and entertainment. He is based in New York and can be reached at criotta@mic.com

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