Pet Birds Become Unconventional Gamers



Angry birds may not be so angry once they get their beaks on some gaming controls of their own.

Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are investigating the benefits of video games for birds. According to CVM, specialists at its Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center are developing video games that pet birds, such as parrots, would be able to play on a computer-like tablet. The game would allow them to use vocalizations and movement to play and win a treat after completing the game’s task. The first game the researchers developed is similar to the game “whack-a-mole.”

“Picture a pop-up on the screen, and if the birds yelled at the pop-up to ‘scare’ it away, then the picture would go away,” says Constance Woodman, a Ph.D. student working on the project. “Then, the bird gets a reward from the dispenser. We tested whether or not the animals could learn on their own how to utilize the tablet to play the game and gain a reward. They showed all the signs of being a content, happy animal during that process.”

Life in a gilded cage may be luxurious, but sometimes a bird needs a little fun and excitement. Given how smart pet birds are, and how much they relish—and need—mental stimulation, a digital game might be just the thing to help advance avian minds. A well-designed game might also be perfect for preventing boredom. In fact, as part of the project, researchers interviewed 127 bird owners and found that there would be a viable market for a bird game among these pet owners.  They also plan to do more market research to see how the game could be modified for optimal user friendliness.

In other good news, the researchers at CVM don’t necessarily plan on stopping this line of thought with their study of gaming birds. They are also considering the possibility of determining if such games would be advantageous for other pets and captive species, including animals in zoos, which may also benefit from the added mental stimuli.

Now we just have to teach our avian pets to play Angry Birds—that would be something to behold. 



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