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Music for Monkeys: Building Methods to Design with White-Faced Sakis for Animal-Driven Audio Enrichment Devices

Department of Computer Science, Aalto University, 02150 Espoo, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1768;
Received: 10 July 2020 / Revised: 20 August 2020 / Accepted: 23 September 2020 / Published: 30 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal-Centered Computing)
Animals living in captivity can benefit from new forms of technological enrichment, with auditory enrichment currently being underutilized. Here, we investigate how to provide zoo-housed white-faced saki monkeys with auditory enrichment in an animal-centred manner. To study this, we prototyped and developed an interactive system that the sakis could trigger to play audio and that tracked their interactions with the device. Importantly, we incorporated this system into the regular living environment of the sakis and developed the interaction in a way that gave them control over activating the sounds. Based on the results, we conclude that audio is a promising way to provide enrichment for small primates like sakis. Utilising our device, we demonstrate that the sakis triggered the traffic audio more than silence, rain, zen, and electronic music, with no differences between the other conditions. However, we highlight problems in using this behaviour to infer the sakis preference or how they like the system, with further research needed towards sounds for audio enrichment. Our method reveals the value of collecting early real-world data and prototyping when designing interactive technologies for zoo-housed animals. In this experiment, we found that animal-centred methods can help create technologies better suited to their purpose and ultimately towards the end-goal of improving animal welfare.
Computer systems for primates to listen to audio have been researched for a long time. However, there is a lack of investigations into what kind of sounds primates would prefer to listen to, how to quantify their preference, and how audio systems and methods can be designed in an animal-focused manner. One pressing question is, if given the choice to control an audio system, would or could primates use such a system. In this study, we design an audio enrichment prototype and method for white-faced sakis that allows them to listen to different sounds in their regular zoo habitat while automatically logging their interactions. Focusing on animal-centred design, this prototype was built from low fidelity testing of different forms within the sakis’ enclosure and gathering requirements from those who care for and view the animal. This process of designing in a participatory manner with the sakis resulted in an interactive system that was shown to be viable, non-invasive, highly interactive, and easy to use in a zoo habitat. Recordings of the sakis’ interactions demonstrated that the sakis triggered traffic audio more than silence, rain sounds, zen, and electronic music. The data and method also highlight the benefit of a longitudinal study within the animals’ own environment to mitigate against the novelty effect and the day-to-day varying rhythm of the animals and the zoo environment. This study builds on animal-centred methods and design paradigms to allow the monitoring of the animals’ behaviours in zoo environments, demonstrating that useful data can be yielded from primate-controlled devices. For the Animal-Computer Interaction community, this is the first audio enrichment system used in zoo contexts within the animals own environment over a long period of time that gives the primate control over their interactions and records this automatically. View Full-Text
Keywords: white-faced saki; animal–computer interaction; animal technology; audio enrichment white-faced saki; animal–computer interaction; animal technology; audio enrichment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Piitulainen, R.; Hirskyj-Douglas, I. Music for Monkeys: Building Methods to Design with White-Faced Sakis for Animal-Driven Audio Enrichment Devices. Animals 2020, 10, 1768.

AMA Style

Piitulainen R, Hirskyj-Douglas I. Music for Monkeys: Building Methods to Design with White-Faced Sakis for Animal-Driven Audio Enrichment Devices. Animals. 2020; 10(10):1768.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Piitulainen, Roosa, and Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas. 2020. "Music for Monkeys: Building Methods to Design with White-Faced Sakis for Animal-Driven Audio Enrichment Devices" Animals 10, no. 10: 1768.

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