“The use of the iPad is part of our continuing search to find a suitable touchscreen technology which the dolphins can activate with the tip of their rostrums or beaks. After extensive searching and product review, it looks like our choice is between the Panasonic Toughbook and the Apple iPad,” Kassewitz said. “We think that once the dolphins get the hang of the touchscreen, we can let them choose from a wide assortment of symbols to represent objects, actions and even emotions.
“Waterproofing, processor speed, touch-sensitivity, anti-glare screens and dolphin-friendly programs are essential. As this database of dolphin symbols grows, we’ll need fast technology to help us respond appropriately and quickly to the dolphins.”
The research is being conducted at Dolphin Discovery’s dolphin swim facility in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.
The researchers are getting Merlin used to the touchscreen by showing him real objects, such as a ball, cube or plastic duck, then asking the dolphin to touch photos of those same objects on the screen.
“This is an easy task for a dolphin, but it is a necessary building block toward our goal of a complete language interface between humans and dolphins,” Kassewitz said.