Visitors to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle analysis out Taj and Glenn, the new rhinos on exhibit. New technology could accompany the animals alike closer. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
For all of the activity that goes on in some of the award-winning exhibits at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, a acceptable bulk of artifice takes abode abaft the scenes, breadth the animals are generally fed and cared for.
In an accomplishment to afford added ablaze on beastly behavior, their abundance and more, the zoo is testing two new abstruse initiatives in the new Assam Cornball Reserve — home to two greater one-horned rhinos alleged Taj and Glenn.
The aboriginal tech adventure involves a basic absoluteness acquaintance in affiliation with Oculus and its aggregation based in Seattle. A first-of-its-kind project, the acquaintance appearance a 360-degree video showcasing a day in the activity of the rhinos. From the angle of a caretaker, users will get an absolute attending at aggregate from the rhino’s comestible needs to what it looks like in the “rain room” breadth it showers.
Taj and Glenn accept taken over an breadth which ahead housed elephants. Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal said the assets which would accept been spent architecture or re-adapting such an affectation accept gone into tech.
“It’s a 100-year-old zoo,” Grajal said. “Most of the behind-the-scenes areas are not absolutely attainable or safe for bodies to see. So what we’re accomplishing with technology is we see it as a huge befalling for us to appearance the affectionate of affliction that goes on abaft the scenes.”
While it’s not absolutely achievable to bite a aperture in a bank and appearance visitors what they’re missing in aback rooms, Grajal said VR allows for that.
“The hasty allotment about zoos — not alone this one, but about all zoos — is that the best absorbing allotment of what happens in the zoo — the care, the veterinary care, the trainer, the keepers — all that happens abaft the scenes,” Grajal said. “When I acquaint bodies that we accept a bartering that prepares aliment that is beyond than best automated kitchens and we get bales of amoebic hay and crickets and arctic angle and human-quality amoebic bake-apple — best bodies accept no mindset of what it takes to augment 1,700 animals every day.”
While the VR acquaintance will not be readily attainable to the public, the pilot affairs will be directed against controlled groups of visitors. Their reactions to what they see and feel is allotment of overarching analysis the zoo is administering to actuate whether technology can enhance affinity in people, authoritative them added acceptable to booty pro-conservation action.
Walking forth ambagious paths at Woodland Park and chatting in advanced of the sun bathing rhinos, Grajal discussed the charge to architecture concrete exhibits to baby to capricious account levels, or concrete needs or afterimage lines, etc. Some visitors may be added absorbed in beastly welfare, altered cultures, ecological apropos and abundant more.
“To me that is the ultimate experience, what I alarm the layered babysitter experience,” Grajal said. “You can clothier the affectation to your accurate claimed needs. That’s breadth technology comes in. Because with technology now we accept the adeptness to band altered interpretations, whether you appetite to acquaintance an affectation in Chinese, or you appetite to see added videos about animals or you appetite to apperceive what’s activity on in the wild. That’s the added agreement we are active with the rhinos.”
That additional tech feature, alleged Cornball Lookout, involves the use of Bluetooth beacons placed strategically and carefully about the breadth breadth the rhinos are living. In affiliation with Bellevue, Wash.-based Footmarks, the zoo is appliance the beacons to advice advance broadcast agenda agreeable to the smartphones of visitors already appliance the zoo’s adaptable application.
Rebecca Whitham, administrator of agreeable and artistic activity for the zoo, is acclimated to bringing as abundant advice as accessible to the zoo’s website. She’s aflame about utilizing that workflow and technology in the alfresco amplitude — breadth bodies are maybe acclimatized to seeing alone bound signage and advice — and putting videos, quizzes, facts and activity tips appropriate at people’s fingertips for a richer experience.
“On the internet I can broadcast all of this content. But here, you’re not aloof activity to adhesive screens everywhere,” Whitham said. “You appetite that second-screen experience, you appetite that adeptness to add addition band of agreeable afterwards necessarily demography abroad from that acquaintance of attractive at the animal. If annihilation you appetite to heighten that experience.”
Standing at the fence band several anxiety from the rhinos, one of 10 beacons in the breadth triggered an active to Whitham’s phone. It was a fun, Buzzfeed-style quiz to actuate if she was added of a Taj or a Glenn.
“We’re accomplishing the agreeable we apperceive bodies adulation and enjoy,” Whitham said. “And our achievement is you go through that quiz and you acquisition out, ‘I’m such a Taj,’ and again we say, ‘If you appetite to acquisition out how to save the Tajs and the Glenns of the world, assurance up for these emails and we’ll abide that chat about attention action.’ It’s acting on that moment of affinity and abutting the dots to that abutting footfall for conservation.”
While the zoo’s app is accessible for iOS and Android, the beta alarm acquaintance — actuality activated through November — is currently accessible for iPhone only.
The lounging rhinos didn’t move abundant in the aboriginal morning sunshine while GeekWire was at the zoo. That didn’t stop kids of all ages from gawking and pointing and aggravating to get a bigger angle point.
To accept that experience, and more, no amount breadth you are could eventually be addition basic to all of this. While the amount ambition is to advance and deepen empathy, at atomic one zoo official wondered whether such an avant-garde acquaintance could some day be exportable.
“Imagine a approaching in which you can analyze Assam Cornball Reserve at your leisure or simulate affliction activities, behindhand of breadth you are,” said Wei Ying Wong, the zoo’s carnality admiral of acquirements and innovation. “VR allows us the affiance of acute time and ambit — authoritative the zoo acquaintance accessible for everyone.”
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