by Matt Goss
MELBOURNE, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Melbourne researchers have created interactive technology for orangutans which has proved so successful that they hope one day it will assist the great apes in communicating with humans.
A trial of the technology which consists of two interactive games, developed by the University of Melbourne in conjunction with Melbourne Zoo, began on Monday morning and has been an overwhelming success so far.
Dr Marcus Carter, head of the project's technology development team, told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday that scientists involved in the project hoped the technology will soon make it possible for orangutans to communicate with zookeepers and zoo visitors.
It is hoped that zoo patrons being able to communicate with the orangutans will increase awareness of their intelligence and escalate conservation efforts.
"At the heart of this project, we're trying to give them new kinds of enrichment that promote really positive natural behaviors that we want to see in them," Carter said.
"It's great that one of the ways we can do that is by facilitating human-orangutan interaction through technology.
"One of the goals here is to show you how smart they are because these orangutans are critically endangered in the wild due to deforestation of palm oil plantations.
"The better we can connect to visitors through the animals... the more people will do to help protect them in the wild."
Using a Microsoft Kinect 3D sensor (of the type used in the Xbox One gaming system), the trial involves an interactive digital space being broadcast onto the floor of the orangutan enclosure.
A red dot is then projected onto the space which the orangutans have to make contact with to make "explode" before another dot is projected in a different spot.
Twelve-year old orangutan Malu, who made headlines last July when he escaped from his enclosure, delighted zookeepers and researchers when he first interacted with the dot by kissing it before using a cloth to try and sweep it away.
"It was a nervous moment when Malu walked into the enclosure for the first time, he walked up to it and kissed it and we exploded," said Carter.
The second game projects of orange and red rectangles onto the space which turn black when touched.
Of the six orangutans at Melbourne Zoo, three were tested in the first trials on Monday with the remaining three to have their first interaction with the system on Wednesday.