This is either the most terrifying or the most adorable thing you might read today: The United States Navy’s Marine Mammal Program (which I had no idea was a thing) is working with sea lions and dolphins, training them to…uh yeah…play video games. Gotta spend oversized defense budgets somehow, I guess?
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The US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego, California, has been around since at least the 1960s. Its work has included studying dolphin hydrodynamics to improve torpedoes, and employing sea critters to detect and clear underwater mines and recover lost military equipment. The program has also trained dolphins to help lost divers return to shore safely and, lately, to develop their gaming skills. Yes, under the Navy’s tutelage, dolphins and sea lions are using their little noses to push buttons to play a maze-like video game. Let’s put the strange Ender’s Game-esque nightmare scenario we’re all thinking about right now to the side for a minute and just enjoy how absolutely adorable this is:
That little guy’s name is Spike, or, well, according to the Navy, it’s “more like his gamertag” (I wonder what horrible things he’d yell at me on Call of Duty). Spike has been playing a very simple maze game now for three years using an “EVE” (no, not the MMO, though that would explain a lot, honestly) system that stands for “Enclosure Video Enrichment.”
Spike is rewarded for successful completion of a level with a herring (not Mountain Dew, which is a crime). He’s able to fully track the cursor on screen and push the corresponding buttons to lead him to victory, after which it’s said he does a little dance.
Dolphins aren’t left out of the fun either. But as they can’t just hop out of the sea like ol’ Spike there, they’re given a “system rigged for the gamer who never leaves the water.” If that hasn’t made you jealous yet, know that they get a “large screen visible from the water” which functions better at night. “What looks like an eerie pierside movie night,” the Navy says, is “just bottlenose dolphins controlling joysticks with their mouths to play video games late into the night.” Sounds very familiar, honestly.
None of this, I’m sure, will ever go horribly, horribly wrong.
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