It’s not just humans who go ape for music and TV streaming services like Spotify and Netflix.
Experts have developed a ‘monkey media player’ which lets primates like gorillas, chimps and orangutans use interactive systems to access sounds and videos.
The touch-screen systems entertain and engage the animals with interactions that might be found in the wild.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow discovered that the primates seemed to prefer listening to the sounds rather than watching videos.
They also had a short attention span of just a few seconds, and the scientists have yet to determine if this is a result of their lack of interest in audio and visual stimuli.
The player was created as part of ongoing projects from animal-computer interaction specialists into improving enrichment to animals in captivity.
Three White-Faced Sakis at Korkeasaari Zoo in Finland (pictured) learnt to use a ‘monkey media player’ which has an interactive system which lets them play videos and sounds
The monkeys were played a variety of videos and sounds, including clips of worms (stock image)
Enrichment is incredibly important for maintaining the mental and physical well-being of zoo animals.
Scientists are looking into how technology can be used to keep the minds of the most intelligent species, like primates, active as if they were in the wild.
Touchscreen systems have been implemented already to zoos in the UK and elsewhere in order to entertain and stimulate the cognition of their monkeys.
The Scottish researchers tested their new multimedia system on three white-faced saki monkeys at Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki, Finland.
A small computer was placed inside a wood-and-plastic tunnel in the monkeys’ enclosure for 32 days.
For the first week of the experiment, the tunnel was silent in order to allow the sakis to get used to its presence in their enclosure.
Then, for 18 days, and the animals would trigger a video or sound when walking through infra-red beams in designated interactive zones.
They would be shown a rotating selection of rain sounds, music or traffic noises, and videos of worms, underwater scenes or abstract shapes and colours, changing every few days
These were intended to mimic the sights and sounds they may experience in the wild.
The primates could choose between an audio or video stimulus when they passed through the infrared beam.
The device continued playing for as long as they chose to stay, and recorded what they were watching and listening to and how long they stayed in the interactive zone.
For the last week of the experiment, the tunnel returned to being non-interactive again before the scientists studied the results.
This builds on the team’s previous research that used a similar system to measure the sakis’ interactions initially with video alone and then with audio alone, but this is the first media player that offers them multiple types of stimuli.
The research team, led by Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas from the University of Glasgow and Vilma Kankaanpaa of Aalto University in Finland, found that the sakis’ interactions were mostly short, lasting a few seconds.
This mirrored the way they acted around objects they were already familiar with in their enclosure.
They also found that the monkeys triggered the audio stimuli twice as much as visual stimuli but, over time, level of interaction dropped with both.
Of the three audio files provided, they listened to music the most , and their favourite video was the underwater scene.
Dr Hirskyj-Douglas, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, said: ‘We’ve been working with Korkeasaari Zoo for several years now to learn more about how white-faced sakis might benefit from computer systems designed specifically for them.
‘Previously, we have explored how they interacted with video content and audio content, but this is the first time we’ve given the option to choose between the two.
‘Our findings raise a number of questions which are worthy of further study to help us build effective interactive enrichment systems.
‘Further study could help us determine whether the short interactions were simply part of their typical behaviour, or reflective of their level of interest in the system.
‘Similarly, their varying levels of interaction over time could be reflective of how engaging they found the content, or simply that they were becoming habituated to the tunnel’s presence in their enclosure.
‘While they chose audio more regularly than video, the results weren’t statistically significant enough for us to know for sure what they prefer.’