The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland recently teamed up with the m2c2 (marine mammal communication and cognition) project for research involving a huge underwater touchscreen. Hunter College’s Cognitive Psychologist Diana Reiss and Rockefeller University Biophysicist Marcelo Magnasco are leading the investigation, which involves the aquarium’s bottlenose dolphins interacting with the touchscreen and several app-generated programs. After all, why limit ourselves to digital signage installations intended for one genus and species?
“The system, the first of its kind, will be used to investigate dolphin intelligence and communication by providing them choice and control over a number of activities,” the researchers said in a statement.
Instead of appendages, the bottlenose dolphins touch the screen with their … um … noses, and in addition to the dolphin-friendly apps, the eight-foot-wide display includes a keyboard for further interactivity. Everything is recorded with cameras and microphones for closer inspection.
According to Reiss, one of the younger dolphins “showed immediate interest and expertise in playing a dolphin version of Whack-a-Mole, in which he tracks and touches moving fish on the touchscreen.” Check out the video below for a demonstration:
Reiss and company are using this installation to better understand the intelligence of dolphins and how their complex range of clicking sounds and body language comprise a communication system. The point of such research is obviously to learn more about our mammalian neighbors, but on a deeper level, the hope for the future is to shatter boundaries between species and enhance interaction. For instance, the scientists are keeping their eyes peeled for if and when the dolphins “request” new content (i.e. images, videos and gamified activities) for their interactive screen. In the meantime, however, we expect to see the pet market exploit this germ of an idea for cheap toys. Before you know it, there will be a slew of household digital signage products aimed at dogs, cats and other domesticated members of the animal kingdom.