business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There is a terrific little story from the Associated Press about a pair of eight-year-old twins in Miami that have taken to the iPad with enormous facility, drawing, playing games, and even expanding their vocabulary. The teens in the same household are the same way, but the older folks - not so much.
The kicker in the story is that these are all orangutans, they live in Miami's Jungle Island, and they "apparently are just like people when it comes to technology."

The trainers in the zoo say that orangutans are extremely intelligent, but limited mostly by the fact that they do not have vocal cords - they cannot speak. While they do speak using sign language, the iPads allow them to communicate with human beings who do not, as well as providing stimulating enrichment activities to keep them from getting bored.

The biggest problem these days is that iPads are too fragile for the orangutans to hold themselves, so the trainers have to hold them. But it is hoped that a larger, more robust screen can be developed so that they can have constant access to the technology and the ability to manipulate it on their own terms. (Just don't give them an Amazon password...)

Of course, we've all seen this movie before. First you give them an iPad, next thing you know they're taking over San Francisco, and Charlton Heston is finding the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand.

(Tell me if this sentence from the story doesn't scare you a little bit: They're hoping to use a video-conferencing program to reconnect orangutans with friends and family members who have been transferred to other zoos...)

Still, the whole thing speaks to the power of technology to enable communication. It is, in fact, the very definition of an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: