Parrots love playing tablet games. That’s helping researchers understand them.

Touchscreens have long been integral to our everyday life — humans use them to work, play, talk with loved ones and snag Lightning Deals on Prime Day. In recent years, they’ve shown potential for the animal kingdom as well, leading to a growing body of academic researchand a proliferation of consumer products promising to leverage technology to enhance our relationships with our pets.

Northeastern assistant professor Rébecca Kleinberger and her collaborators have been at the forefront of that exploration, using computer interaction to enrich and understand the lives of dogs, orcas and parrots. Their latest research begs the next logical question: If animals are going to use touchscreens, how should we design for them?

A new study released Wednesday, Kleinberger; Megan McMahon, an undergraduate studying behavioral neuroscience; and collaborators Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas at the University of Glasgow and Jennifer Cunha in Florida used a bare-bones, Balloon Pop-style tablet game to collect data on a group of 20 pet birds’ tactile interactions with their touchscreens.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono

Behavioral Neuroscience