Tablets are all the rage these days, with the Apple iPad leading the pack and selling like hotcakes in stores throughout the country. Some of the more cynical Maximum PC readers may snort and say that part of the iPad's appeal is its simplicity; I've heard people comment that even a monkey could find his way around iOS. At least one monkey lover disagrees. Ken Schweller, chairman of the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, wants to slap modified non-Apple tablets in the hands of his hyper-intelligent primate pals to spur communication development. And he needs your help!
That's right, Schweller hopes to fund the development of the custom tablets -- complete with a custom Bonobo Chat app -- through Kickstarter. According to that page and a separate ExtremeTech report, the seven bonobos at the Great Ape Trust already communicate with their keepers using icons on a large, stationary touchscreen monitor. That's just not good enough, Schweller says in his Kickstarter plea:
For communication to be truly effective the apes and the people they interact with need to have personal interconnected keyboards they can carry about with them… All keyboards will be fully connected through the internet and available to their bonobo and human users wherever they are located.
We would like the bonobos to use the Bonobo Chat app to control their environment using simple lexigram commands - to operate vending machines, open doors, watch movies and, hopefully, to control robots. We believe that controlling robots might be a good way for the bonobos to interact with guests and visitors outside their caged areas. They could play chase games or squirt guests with an on board watergun. They could operate the robot out of site by navigating using an on board camera.
Schweller already has working prototypes of his custom slate, the Bonobo Chat app, and the remote-controlled Bonobo bust-sporting robot, but he's hoping to raise $20,000 by April 15th to continue with the project. Donating at least $25 will nab you the Bonobo Chat app, while more generous backers will receive panels from the laminated keyboards already in use at the facility. Five hundred smackers will get you a one-on-one Skype video chat with one of the bonobos, using the Bonobo Chat software as a translator.
What better way is there to spend some of your tax return than to fund man-on-monkey communication efforts, especially if said efforts involve tablet-wielding bonobos and robots with squirt guns? You owe it to Darwin to at least give the Bonobo Chat project a read through.