Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Building elephant sliders at The CASS

Rough sketches to show concept for an elephant analogue input device using ultra-sonic sensors mounted at either end of a repurposed drawer slider.

The HC-SR04 sensors measure time taken for pulse to travel to obstacle and back, which can be converted to a distance, therefore indicating how much the slider has been pushed.  We need to construct a housing that enables elephants to manipulate the slider without destroying it...

Here's Chris Hosegood in workshop at The CASS - - examining the various drawer sliders I've brought to see which might be fit for pupose.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

ZooJamming at International Conference on Game Jams

Here I am doing my video presentation...
Some of our ZooJam authors and organisors (Reinhard Gupfinger, Sofya Baskin, Anna Zamansky, Sarah Webber and I) presented a paper at this year's ICGJ2019 (International Conference on Game Jams) in San Francisco on Sunday 17th March.

ZooJamming: Designing Beyond Human Experience was a report of the three ZooJams we've held at ACI conference over the past three years.

Tried to add some non-human interest...
We had to present remotely using pre-recorded video, which is always tricky because you can't judge the audience reactions; then answer live questions via Discord/Skype.

It was cool being able to reach out to another community of researchers and share some of what we've been doing.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Valli has a friend

I received a lovely email from Brother Stefan at Skanda Vale this morning, sending me some footage of Valli with her new companion, Lakshmi, who arrived in Wales last October.

It seems that Lakshmi has been paying a lot of attention to the hanging rope in the barn - I'm looking forward to meeting her and being able to try out some new enrichment devices!

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Update on SoundJam at ACI

Audio sequencer for chimps
This year at ACI2018, Reinhard Gupfinger, Paul Kendrick and I proposed a SoundJam workshop, along similar lines to 2017 FarmJam and 2016 ZooJam.   I was honoured to manage the event on the day with Valerie Hare from Shape of Enrichment, who provided us with wonderful insights and shared her expert knowledge of animal behaviour and enrichment.

The challenges this year were essentially to design interactive auditory enrchment for servals (brief from Val), parrots (from Reinhard), elephants (from Lisa Yon and me) and chimpanzees (from Paul and Robert Young).  Participants formed small teams to brainstorm ideas in the morning, then received feedback from Reinhard and Val.  After lunch, we rearranged ourselves to work on a more detailed enrichment concept - and produce a physical prototype using popsicles, clay, sticky tape, pipecleaners, card etc.

Hidden mouse runs for servals

As we were a small group, servals, chimps and parrots received dedicated attention but elephants were saved for another day.  From my perspective, capturing everyone's ideas about elephant enrichment was the most useful aspect in any case.
Interactive perches for parrots

The outputs were presented at a plenary later in the afternoon - videos are here:
and you can read about all the ideas and the workshop in more detail here:

Larry, Shogo and Kayla brainstorming session

Val, Jacob and Mike brainstorming session

Sunday, 14 October 2018

New toys for Valli

Valli playing with a new rope device
Trip to Skanda Vale this weekend, armed with a range of devices for Valli to try out.

We hung some rope from a cross-beam and monitored how often she interacted with it; installed the 3 identical tactile interfaces that were supposed to trigger different sound effects.

The team at Skanda now have some sophisticated monitoring equipment, with cameras in several positions inside and outside the elephant barn.  It's possible to view recordings from all the cameras overnight and check whether and how often and how Valli interacts with objects in her surroundings. 

I spent a few hours checking and downloading footage (by viewing at high speed), finding more instances of playful behaviour than first impressions might have given us.  Especially interesting was Valli's behaviour with a particular tyre that she rolled across from the sandy substrate onto her rubber-floor-area in the middle of the night.  She kept the tyre tucked under her belly for a long period of time, moving around the enclosure to forage straw while balancing it between her legs.

When I mentioned this to Brother Peter the next day, he told me that the tyre had been Valli's first special toy when she was a calf, newly arrived from Sri Lanka in the 1970s.  She has always played with it.  When it was time for her to move from her old elephant shed to this new heated barn, Peter made her carry the tyre with her all the way from her old home to her new home (about 500m).

It was just as well he told me, as I'd been contemplating adding accelerometer-activated noise-makers to the insides of a tyre, and I realised that I might need to reconsider...

Mounted buttons

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Valli September walk

Valli eating brambles, September 2018
I went to Electromagnetic Field again this year with my children and since we were already in Gloucester, kept going afterwards to Skanda Vale for a friendly visit.

We went for a walk with Brother Peter and Valli, who has a permanent purple trunk at the moment due to her love of brambles.  She also enjoys foraging Rosebay Willowherb fluff...  I thought Valli would have enjoyed our record-breaking hot summer, but Peter says she's happier with traditional British weather, having grown up in Wales.

Brother Peter and I discussed some ideas for olfactory enrichment and I outlined my latest designs for acoustic toys.  I will hopefully return in early October with some prototypes for Valli to test.  Watch this space!
Valli loves willow herb, September 2018