The fact that there is a dolphin using an iPad is perhaps less amazing than the surprise that Apple’s marketing department had nothing to do with it. Yes, Merlin the dolphin has an iPad, and he and his trainer are using it to better understand each other’s communication patterns. If successful, the Apple gadget may help break the dolphin-human language barrier.
Ever since the debut of the iPad, there have a plethora of cats, dogs, birds and mice playing with the Apple gadget. Though some, like the amazing cat Iggy, seem to demonstrate a level of self-awareness about the iPad, Merlin is the first mammal to use it as a learning tool.
The innovative program was the brainchild of dolphin researcher Jack Kassewitz of Speak Dolphin, an organization dedicated to unlocking the secrets of cetacean communication. Kassewitz explains:
The use of the iPad is part of our continuing search to find a suitable touchscreen technology which the dolphins can activate with the tip of their rostrums or beaks … We think that once the dolphins get the hang of the touchscreen, we can let them choose from a wide assortment of symbols to represent objects, actions and even emotions.
The researchers have found a way to waterproof the iPad and are now using it to help Merlin — an animal that lives in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico — to make associations between physical objects and digital representations of those objects. The next step will be to layer in verbs and prepositions, making the dream of interactive communication with the brainiest animals on the planet a true possibility.
Image Credit: Speak Dolphin
By Karl Burkart, MNN