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RoboBonobo: Because apes obviously need a weaponized telepresence robot

March 30, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
bonobo-chat-robobonobo.jpgMarch 29, 2012 by Sebastian Anthony via -- Do not adjust your LCD monitor: What you're looking at really is a bonobo bust stuck on top of a mobile, robotic base. Dubbed the RoboBonobo, the robot will eventually be controlled by apes armed with wireless Android tablets -- much in the same way that a soldier remotely pilots a UAV. Like a military drone, too, RoboBonobo is even equipped with a weapon: A water cannon.

Putting aside the ethical considerations of equipping the second-most-advanced animal on the planet with a robotic weapon, this project is the brainchild of Ken Schweller, a computer scientist and psychologist, and also the chairman of the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. The Great Ape Trust Sanctuary is home to seven bonobos, including the world-famous Kanzi, and two orangutans. So far the Sanctuary has focused almost exclusively on language, with the bonobos and their keepers communicating through lexigrams on a touch-screen TV (see video below). Now Schweller wants to go one step further and outfit the bonobos with wireless tablets running custom Bonobo Chat software, allowing the apes to communicate with their keepers (and other bonobos!) from anywhere in the Sanctuary, and to remotely control devices such as vending machines, doors, and the RoboBonobo.


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