30 10, 2018

Prepare for Launch!

By |2018-10-30T13:16:34+00:00October 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

We are currently in the process of preparing a special evening lecture to be held at Bristol Zoo Gardens on 14th November 2018. The Gorilla Game Lab project is now ten months old, and we have enough results under our belt to talk to an audience about:

  • where the idea(s) for the project came from (including how Fay and Pete met for the first time in a fire station…)
  • how we secured our project funding… tips for securing seedcorn funding
  • how we forged new research links between the zoo and the university
  • our gorilla game… the design process
  • our gorilla game…results so far. Is it indeed a form of cognitive enrichment?
  • great ape enrichment and well-being in general
  • our plans for the future

Over the past week or so, we have been updating our website, working on a brand new project logo, and working with Patos productions to make a project showreel.

25 07, 2018

First Prototype Evaluation

By |2018-11-12T18:54:46+00:00July 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Today marks an exciting day for the Gorilla Game Lab team…the first evaluation with our users.

We met outside the gorilla enclosure for a quick briefing about the order of events, protocols, and most excitingly, the version of the game system and the relevant modules being trialled. We decided to setup the GGL prototype to be nice and easy for the gorillas to investigate if they could understand the general goals of the game: to get a nut from the hopper to the retrieval module.

The prototype was setup with game module occupying only the central vertical column of the grid, with a Go Pro camera in the top right corner module. The following modules were used:

  1. A module to house the nuts,
  2. A module with recesses to catch nuts in the corner and a central deflector,
  3. A module with two flat platforms
  4. A module with two levels with open bottom half for easy nut/reward collection

Upon fastening the prototype to the enclosure mesh, Kukena, an adult female gorilla (6-years-old) came over to investigate, quickly setting about putting her fingers into the module holes and trying to move the nuts out of the top module, through the other modules, towards the bottom. After a few minutes, she retrieved nuts from the bottom and quickly scoffed down the peanut treat. We’d been told that nuts are a particular favourite of the gorillas at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Word seems to travel fast in the gorilla enclosure and soon the area surrounding the game was populated with the rest of the troop. Two young gorillas began to help Kukena to solve the game puzzles, working collaboratively, while some of the other gorillas in the troop watched on in close proximity.

However, this gorilla gaming Eden was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of 35-year old, resident Silverback, Jock who sent the gorillas packing while he investigated the game. Although inquisitive, Jock was in no mood to attempt any game puzzles, instead collecting peanuts scattered on the floor, having been left behind by the other gorillas in their haste to get out of his way. Content at having had a few treats, Jock departed from the game space but sat down within the vicinity to keep an eye on the other gorillas as they tentatively returned for another game. This time, it was the turn of alpha female, Touni, to pull rank on the other girls and enjoy exclusive use of the game in collaboration with her one-year old offspring Ayana. Poor Kukena sat close by, patiently waiting for another opportunity for play – almost queuing. Very British.

Touni successfully used the game for 40 minutes, sharing her spoils with Ayana. After Touni was finished, the omnipresent Kukena ran over to have another go but sadly there were no more nuts remaining. However, Kukena was undeterred, happily retrieving the dregs and shells of the peanuts just in case there were some undiscovered treats. She also fashioned a tool from a strand of hay to help her, sticking it in the module holes to manoeuvre the debris towards the exit.

After one hour of game play, the research team decamped outside the gorilla Glasshouse for a debrief. We were amazed with the level of engagement afforded by the prototype in comparison to previous puzzle features but there were several areas for improvement. Firstly, the level of challenge appeared too easy as the nuts had to be refilled halfway through the evaluation – our future modules needed to be more challenging. Secondly, the game had been dominated by Touni and Kukena, so we were interested how some of the other (lower ranking) gorillas would use it in the future.

11 07, 2018

Brigstow Talk Today

By |2018-07-11T09:48:33+00:00July 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

We’re discussing our work today. Details below:

Come and join us for a Brigstow Ideas lunch that brings together two of our current projects for brief work-in-progress presentations and an opportunity for questions and conversation from you. These interdisciplinary projects explore very different aspects of animal-human interactions, from the tacit knowledge of beekeeping to using creative technology to engage gorillas in play!

The projects are:

  • Gorilla Game Lab led by Stuart Gray (Computer Science and Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), with Peter Bennett (Computer Science), Fay Clark (Bristol Zoological Society), Katy Burgess (Experimental Psychology) and Kirsten Cater (Computer Science and Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship).
  • Little Things Rule the World: The Enlivening Practices of Apiculture and Hand-made Filmmaking led by Merle Patchett (Geographical Sciences), with Rachel Murray (Department of English) and Vicky Smith (Bristol Experimental & Expanded Film (BEEF)).

Our understanding is that the venue is wheelchair accessible and a hearing loop will be available

Book with Eventbrite to join us.


15 03, 2018

Hidden tech

By |2018-10-30T13:47:33+00:00March 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Here is a pivotal doodle from my project notebook dated 15th March 2018. One of the most important decisions we made about the project, and its use of technology, boils down to this one very eloquent(!) line:

 “Needs to incorporate technology to log what they are doing… (we) can’t see over their shoulder”.


I am learning from my mistakes. In previous research with great apes and dolphins, it has been very difficult for the researcher (me) to observe what the animal is “doing” when they interact with a cognitive puzzle, when most of the puzzle is obstructed by the animal’s body.

This is why we decided to HIDE most of our technology inside the gorilla cognitive puzzle, rather than have it gorilla-facing (except some nifty cameras facing outwards…). We are going to use the technology to remotely log “what they are doing” rather than try to be mind-readers or superheros with x-ray vision.