|You can read a copy of the original paper here. To cite the paper:|
APA style: Woodman, C.J. (2005). Successful intuitive computer interfaces for birds, and other forays into giving birds digital enrichment. Conference Proceedings of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, February 9–12.
MLA style: Woodman, Constance J. "Successful Intuitive Computer Interfaces for Birds, and Other Forays Into Giving Parrots Electronic Enrichment." Conference Proceedings of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators. Atlanta, GA. 2005.
Games fit the size and shape of your browser window, resize your brower to meet your bird's needs.
|Fly Invaders Trainer||Introduces you, the human, and your bird to digital enrichment. Visual responses only.|
|Fly Invaders, 5 Levels||Five levels of “Fly Invaders” that loop back to the beginning when finished. Visual responses only.|
|Little Bird||A very simple cause-and-effect game. Shapes scroll through the screen and the bird can make them move by squawking. Visual responses only.|
|Group Sing Along||A game where the computer produces bits of music based on how long the bird(s) produce sound. When music is played on the computer, this can add a new level of interactivity to singing with pre-recorded muic. A possible toy for blind birds. Audio responses only.|
|Menu And Cursor||A squawk activated cursor allows the bird to select games from a menu. Games are a drawing program, digital pet, and word game. You can use your computer's “print screen” function to copy then paste your bird's finished drawing to a word processor or graphics program. Visual and audio responses.|
|Birdie Pachinko||Your bird influences the activity of the pachinko ball to hit "food" targets that you can place on the play space. When a food target beeps you give your bird a sunflower seed or other treat. Great for food motivated birds who are otherwise disinterested. Visual and audio response. Human interaction required.|
How long does it take for my bird to use a computer?
That depends on the bird. A bird who is used to a computer monitor displaying images may respond immediately. Here is a video of a typical first exposure to electronic enrichment. (YouTube link.)
A bird who is afraid of the output on the monitor will need hours, possibly days, before they are comfortable enough to interact with the computer. Be watchful of behaviors that show the bird has had enough.
Some birds learn how to play computer games quickly, but don't like using them for various temporary reasons (like feeling forced to.) A few weeks or even months later, they remember the game as interesting and are happy to play.
A computer game is like any toy: At first it may be rejected, and you may spend a week trying to get the bird to play. Then one day, they shred the thing to bits in 5 minutes screaming delightedly the whole time. (Except they won't be shredding your computer, just squawking at it.)
How do I start?
You'll need a flat panel montitor (TV-style CRT monitors may interfere with bird vision,) and a cheap computer microphone (specifically called a condenser mic.) This kind of microphone picks up all the sound in a room. The mesh-ball-on-a-stick microphones (cardioid mic) will only pick up sounds from a specific direction and a limited distance away.
Begin by running the “Fly Invaders Trainer” game with the bird on your shoulder, or on your chair. Play through the first 4 minutes of symbol exposure, followed by three levels of "Fly Invaders." Encourage your bird to join in. Even if the bird is silent, you have shown that the computer is not dangerous, and that it can be controlled by voice.
After you've set up your computer to interact with your bird in "Fly Invaders Trainer," you know how to set up for all other games. Experiment to find out what stimulation your birds likes. Visual only? Audio only? Visual and audio? What content do they like the best?
Be aware that your bird has not been immersed, since hatching, with televised images and symbolic drawings. Since your bird doesn't have all the practice you do it may take time for your bird to understand symbols. I've found that paging through an “I Spy” children's picture book and identifying objects is a great way to train a bird to look at flat images as though they were objects and not visual noise.
What benefits do digital enrichment offer a bird?
A new way to encourage activity when no one is home: Squawk activated computer games encourage vocalization by initially responding to comfort behaviors, such as sneezes and rousing (shaking of feathers) then encouraging vocalization and interaction.
Mental challenges: Honing birdie brains through entirely new stimulation and interaction. Increase logical thinking, practice cause and effect, experiment with vocalizations in new ways.
A better understanding of the captive environment: Now smart birds can know the computer is something that individuals use, as opposed to an ignorable background object.
Human-bird relationship:Your time at the computer no longer isolates you from your bird. You can put Polly on your shoulder and she can play games in one browser window while you read your e-mail in another. By watching how your bird tries to puzzle through computer games you gain a better understanding of how your bird thinks and approaches problems.
About the Author
Constance Woodman has been creating computer games for bird since 2002, when her grey parrot's favorite, often-uttered word, “apple,” caused a voice-activated video game character to pick up a apple. Her interests include free-flight and public education work. She has free-flown recreationally and professionally a variety of parrot and raptor species, most recently getting some “awesome” knocked into her by spending a week with free-flying macaws in the canyons of Utah with trainers Susan Hillard and Chris Biro of the “Pirate's Parrot.”