Watch This Dolphin Use a Giant Touchscreen

Dolphins are tapping an eight-foot-tall touchscreen underwater.

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May 31 2017, 5:22pm

To say that dolphins are smart as heck is an understatement. They can detect magnetic fields, get high off sucking the life out of other marine life, have been used in several countries' military as weapons or as bomb detectors—and now, they're able to use touchscreens. And they seem to have picked that tech up pretty naturally, too.

Researchers from Hunter College and Rockefeller University built an eight-foot-tall touchscreen—the first of its kind—at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Dolphins are early adopters of touchscreen technology, using iPads in 2010 to communicate with humans. But they've never before used a custom-built screen that's designed to display underwater (from behind a viewing panel that stays dry). When they tap their snouts to the glass, the screen detects their touch optically.

The programming itself is an open system that requires no training—the dolphins' use of it will determine how the system evolves. One dolphin spontaneously picked up a game of "Whack-an-Angel-Fish," tapping the digital fish floating across the screen to make them vanish.

The scientists are hoping that studying how the dolphins interact with the screen will help advance understanding of how they communicate, as an array of cameras and microphones pick up their every squeak and nose-boop. Eventually, perhaps, we can teach dolphins to write blogs for the internet?

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