Give that bird a mouse

Biologist tries to develop web browser for parrots

source: Graham Lawton
New Scientist July 8 2000
starts p28, 2 pages long

Irene Pepperberg is a biologist from the University of Arizona who owns an African Grey parrot called Arthur. She is a visiting professor at MIT, where she is seeking to develop a Web browser that Arthur can use, with the help of Ben Resner, who supervises Arthur. Pepperberg also owns Alex, an African Grey which can recognise some 50 objects, five shapes, seven colours, count as far as six, and use concepts like 'smaller', and 'different'. She sees African Greys as having as much intelligence as dolphins or chimps. Parrots need stimulation due to their intelligence, or they become lonely and bored, with behavioural problems like feather plucking. Arthur has to stay in the lab at night, and needs a diversion. His browser is a box with two levers, and he uses a liquid crystal screen, because parrots' eyes see cathode ray tubes as though they were strobe lights. Arthur is not especially impressed by his new toy, but there is hope that the software and hardware can be improved enough to change this. Parrots could eventually contact each other through the internet, and have their own pages.