On Friday, July 26th, we again payed a visit to the parrots' home of the ARGE PAPAGEINESCHUTZ. Norbert brought a tablet which he had programmed to be a simple interactive tool for the birds: large colourful geometric patterns (i.e. a red square) on the screen, which - when touched - produce a sound.
Our aim was to find out: A) Will the birds - if we show them how to do - "press the button" on the touch screen? Will they accept technical devices? B) How will they react on the produced sound? Will they be able to perceive the interactivity between their activities and the output? And C) Will the touch screen react on the birds' beaks?
We started our experiment with the so-called Handicapped Group. This is a group of earthbound parrots. Their unability to fly has various causes; but most of them suffer from missing flight feathers, apparently cut by their former owners. Normally these birds are very nosey and communicative. On previous visits we have had very good results in interacting with them.
But this time it was a complete failure. We couldn't get them into playing with the touch screen. They seemed by far more interested in my camera than in the computers. Even Marion, the new directing manager of the Papageienheim and thus close attachment figure of all the birds, could not persuade them to peck the screen.
Disappointed we already wanted to cancel the experiment, but gave it another try with the grey parrots of the Science Group. The result could not be better: From the very moment when Iris demonstrated the operating mode of the tablet, the greys, one after the other, approached and started to peck and hammer on the screen. Some of them were so enthusiastic that they didn't want to stop at all. They had a great time - and of course, we too!
Reflecting the experiment we can say that it is important to find the right group of birds for this instrument. Apparently some individuals do not have any problem in "working" with a digital device, while others even do not perceive them as devices at all. We are already curious whether these prefer to play with different, more analogue, tools. We will find out soon.