With tens of thousands of apps currently available for the iPad and iPhone, there is certainly no shortage of distractions to keep us smartphone-wielding humans entertained -- but as it turns out, we're not the only ones who could benefit from bit of beguilement. That said, in hopes of staving off boredom in human and swine alike, a team of Dutch designers have created Pig Chase -- an app for interspecies entertainment that playfully pits iPad users against real-life pigs, who might otherwise only meet one another on a plate.
Since 2001, law has required pig farmers in the European Union to provide some form of entertainment to their livestock as a way of keeping them in good emotional health, which in turn helps curb aggression and anxiety. Often, toys and other materials are placed inside the sties for animals to interact with, but perhaps unsurprisingly, some farmers have found it quite difficult to turn their pigpens into playpens.
With that in mind, designers from Utrecht School of the Arts and Wageningen University in the Netherlands ventured to create new ways to make swine swoon -- resulting in a project called Playing with Pigs. But with a shortage of literature on entertaining pigs, developers soon found themselves experts in the field.
"During the design process we discovered something that, to our knowledge at the time, animal scientists had not noticed until now: pigs like to play with light. For example, pigs are fascinated by the movement of reflected points of light, and are attracted to new light spots on a surface," the project's web site states.
That's when the idea for Pig Chase dawned on them as a means to bring a bit of joy to animals on the farm, all while forging a "new relationship between pigs and humans."
Here's how it works:
Pigs play with the help of a large touch sensitive display. On it, a human-controlled ball of light moves around. When they touch the ball, it fires off colorful sparks.
Humans play the game on a tablet computer such as an iPad. They move the ball of light with their finger and see the pigs’ snouts as if they were on the other side of the screen.
If pigs and humans move in harmony, that is, if a pig’s snout and the human’s ball of light move through a goal triangle, it triggers a colorful display of fireworks. An additional challenge for humans is to maintain contact with the pigs’ snouts. If they do not, their ball of light fizzles out.
Finally, the number of targets a human and pig hit in one session is kept track of and shown in a high score table. So what we have is a game that enables humans to play with an animal they normally only consume as meat. For pigs, humans are transformed into a source of entertainment.
In both intent and execution, this is pretty awesome. For too long and for too many people, livestock pigs have been relegated to the murky outskirts of our awareness, despite possessing an intellect and emotional sensitivity found in few other non-human species. At the very least, Pig Chase will undoubtedly, and perhaps subconsciously, raise awareness of not only of where our food comes from -- but from whom as well.