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

Exploring How White-Faced Sakis Control Digital Visual Enrichment Systems

Department of Computer Science, Aalto University, 02150 Espoo, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Péter Pongrácz
Animals 2021, 11(2), 557;
Received: 11 December 2020 / Revised: 25 January 2021 / Accepted: 29 January 2021 / Published: 20 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal-Centered Computing)
Many zoo-housed primates use visual computer systems for enrichment but little is known about how monkeys would choose to control these devices. Here we investigate what visual enrichment white-faced saki monkeys would trigger and what effect these videos have on their behaviour. To study this, we built an interactive screen device that would trigger visual stimuli and track the sakis’ interactions when using the system. Over several weeks, we found that the sakis would trigger underwater and worm videos significantly more than animal, abstract art and forest videos, and the control condition of no-stimuli. Further, the sakis triggered the animal video significantly less often over all other conditions. Yet, viewing their interactions over time, the sakis’ usage of the device followed a bell curve, suggesting novelty and habituation factors. As such, it is unknown if the stumli or devices novelty and habituation caused the changes in the sakis interactions over time. These results also indicated that the different visual stimuli conditions significantly reduced the sakis’ scratching behaviour with the visual stimuli conditions compared to the control condition. Further, the usage of visual stimuli did not increase the sakis’ looking at and sitting in front of the screen behaviours. These results highlight problems in defining interactivity and screen usage with monkeys and screens from looking behaviours and proximity alone.
Computer-enabled screen systems containing visual elements have long been employed with captive primates for assessing preference, reactions and for husbandry reasons. These screen systems typically play visual enrichment to primates without them choosing to trigger the system and without their consent. Yet, what videos primates, especially monkeys, would prefer to watch of their own volition and how to design computers and methods that allow choice is an open question. In this study, we designed and tested, over several weeks, an enrichment system that facilitates white-faced saki monkeys to trigger different visual stimuli in their regular zoo habitat while automatically logging and recording their interaction. By analysing this data, we show that the sakis triggered underwater and worm videos over the forest, abstract art, and animal videos, and a control condition of no-stimuli. We also note that the sakis used the device significantly less when playing animal videos compared to other conditions. Yet, plotting the data over time revealed an engagement bell curve suggesting confounding factors of novelty and habituation. As such, it is unknown if the stimuli or device usage curve caused the changes in the sakis interactions over time. Looking at the sakis’ behaviours and working with zoo personnel, we noted that the stimuli conditions resulted in significantly decreasing the sakis’ scratching behaviour. For the research community, this study builds on methods that allow animals to control computers in a zoo environment highlighting problems in quantifying animal interactions with computer devices. View Full-Text
Keywords: white-faced saki; animal-computer interaction; animal technology; visual enrichment white-faced saki; animal-computer interaction; animal technology; visual enrichment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hirskyj-Douglas, I.; Kankaanpää, V. Exploring How White-Faced Sakis Control Digital Visual Enrichment Systems. Animals 2021, 11, 557.

AMA Style

Hirskyj-Douglas I, Kankaanpää V. Exploring How White-Faced Sakis Control Digital Visual Enrichment Systems. Animals. 2021; 11(2):557.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hirskyj-Douglas, Ilyena, and Vilma Kankaanpää. 2021. "Exploring How White-Faced Sakis Control Digital Visual Enrichment Systems" Animals 11, no. 2: 557.

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