New App Would Help Apes Talk To Humans

Did you know that there is a†98 percent genetic similarity between apes and humans? Watching primates use tools and care for one another, it’s hard not to feel the pull of this shared ancestry. Unfortunately, the one thing that keeps us from truly knowing what apes are thinking and feeling is the inability to communicate in a common language. But that’s about to change.

Now, researchers at the†Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa, have developed a tablet app that allows apes and humans to communicate through†simple lexigrams.

Bonobo Chat

Currently the bonobos at the Iowa sanctuary have a vocabulary of about 400 words. They use these words by touching symbols that represent the words’ meaning on their tablets. Because the apes have been so successful using this medium, the Sanctuary now wants to expand the app into a two-way communication technology.

The app, called Bonobo Chat, is gathering much-needed funding on Kickstarter. If successful, researchers will augment the technology so it can act as an instant human-ape translator. “People could simply speak into their device in English, at which point the app would select lexigrams corresponding to their words, and display those on the screen of the selected bonoboís device,” Gizmag points out. “Conversely, once an ape had poked out a series of lexigrams on their screen, a corresponding spoken message would be played back by the humanís device.”

Bonobo Chat

The app’s creators would also like the bonobos to be able to use the Bonobo Chat app to control their environment using simple lexigram commands -† to operate vending machines, open doors, watch movies and, hopefully, to control robots. †”We believe that controlling robots might be a good way for the bonobos to interact with guests and visitors outside their caged areas,” write the researchers.

To learn more, or to support the project, check out Bonobo Chat on Kickstarter.

Related Reading:

6 Species Proving Humans Aren’t The Only Intelligent Ones On The Planet

Terrified Orangutans Saved From Hunters [Video]

Elephant Plays With Tablet Computer [Video]

Image via Thinkstock


Lynn H.
Lynn H.4 years ago

Weird and neat

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

OR we could leave them alone in nature where they belong... a nice thought

Glenn Byrnes
Glenn Byrnes4 years ago

Wonderful. This could revolutionize the human race's very relationship with nature.

Terri Hughes
Terri Hughes4 years ago

This is great.....Apes are very intelligent.

Jane L.
Jane L.4 years ago

it would be so cool to see a video of this in action!

Ken W.
Ken W.4 years ago

Its about time !!

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P.4 years ago

lol thanks

Darla G.
Darla G.4 years ago

That's definitely interesting.

Chandra K.
Paula P.4 years ago


Stefanie D.
Stefanie D.4 years ago

whatever an animal learns to respond to could easily extend to most mammals
one could include, dogs, cats, pigs, dolphin, whales, monkeys, cows, horses, chickens, etc.

i am sure animals could 'describe' what they 'want' or 'like' etc (most folks can already understand some without even use of words or signing, just mere vocalization is sufficient)

but i doubt they could discuss politics or philosophy to any useful depth beyond what they 'like/prefer' or not.