The US Navy’s squad of sea lions – yes, real aquatic mammals – have been trained to play video games as part of a new research program. According to the scientists behind the program, pinnipeds enjoy playing games just like we do.
As part of the US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, which trains sea lions and dolphins to assist in reconnaissance and recovery missions, the Navy is also required to provide the highest level of care for the animals in its rows. One of the newer tools developed to keep your animals engaged and happy is a video game.
Called the Enclosure Video Enrichment System, or EVE, the game sees sea lions using a set of oversized buttons to control a cursor on a screen, completing certain objectives in a stripped down, video game fashion.
It’s one thing for the EVE program to show that sea lions have the intelligence to play relatively complex games, like guiding a cursor through a maze, but it’s also exciting for researchers that the animals seem to enjoy it. In some cases, sea lions have even completed play sessions without the additional positive reinforcement of food.
Sea lions may even have an advantage over us when it comes to gaming, according to EVE lead researcher Kelley Winship. They don’t get frustrated with the game, even when they’re not winning, and when they decide to quit it’s simply because they’re done playing. “You don’t really see a sea lion taunting and throwing away the controller,” Winship added.
Sea lions aren’t the only Navy mammals getting a taste of video games: Dolphins have had a go, too, though the setting for solely sea-dwelling creatures runs a bit deeper. You can read more about the program here.
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