Apple has found an unexpected, underserved cohort of consumers who can't get enough of the iPad — animals.
According to the Associated Press, six orangutans at Miami's Jungle Island are using iPads as part of an experiment in communication and mental stimulus. Their adoption habits pattern that of humans.
"Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like,`Oh I get this,'" said Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, `I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer.'"
The goal of the program is to further bridge the primate-human gap and better protect this endangered species that shares 97% of their genetic material with us.
The software, originally designed for humans with autism, has a screen that displays pictures of objects. As a trainer names an object the orangutan presses a corresponding button. Jacobs and other trainers have developed a strong communication with the orangutans, but the iPad and other touchscreen technology expands the opportunity for inter-species conversation.
"It would just be such a wonderful bridge to have," Jacobs told AP. The extremely intelligent animals "are sort of trapped in those bodies. They have the intelligence that they need to communicate, but they don't have the right equipment, because they don't have voice boxes or vocal cords. So this gives them a way to let us know what they know, what they are capable of, what they would like to have."
Richard Zimmerman, executive director of Orangutan Outreach, is building "Apps For Apes" with donated iPads, expanding a partnership with the Milwaukee County Zoo. His goal: a video-conferencing program to reconnect orangutans with friends and family members transferred to other zoos. "We're putting together what we're calling primate playdates or red ape rendezvous, which is to say connecting the orangutans in different facilities. We're looking at a larger picture."
While apes are communicating with tablets , cats are the animal kingdom's real early furry adopters.
Following on the brand's iPad games for cats released last year, Friskies is back with "You vs. Cat" for Android — paws to watch it in action below: