‘Animal-centred internet’ may be possible, scientists suggest | Science & Tech News

An “animal-centred internet” – which could allow pets to interact with each other as well as humans – may be possible, scientists have suggested.

The findings come following a new study by researchers at the University of Glasgow found that parrots may prefer live chats with their friends over recorded messages – part of wider research that they said could pave the way for an online world for animals.

Scientists believe parrots prefer the video calls because they may be able to tell the difference between live chats and pre-recorded messages.

Lead author Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, from the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, said the internet holds “a great deal of potential for giving animals agency to interact with each other in new ways”.

But she warned “the systems we build to help them do that need to be designed around their specific needs and physical and mental abilities”.

“Studies like this could help to lay the foundations of a truly animal-centred internet.”

Dr Hirskyj-Douglas added: “Our previous research had shown that parrots seem to benefit from the opportunity to video call each other, which could help reduce the mental and physical toll that living in domestic situations can take on them.

“In the wild, they live in flocks and socialise with each other constantly.

“As pets, they’re often kept on their own, which can cause them to develop negative behaviours like excessive pacing or feather-plucking.”

The study, which also involved a team from Northeastern University in the US, aimed to explore the online social lives of nine pet parrots.

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout photo issued by University of Glasgow of a parrot taking part in their study which suggests pet parrots taught to make video calls on Facebook Messenger may prefer live chats with their friends rather than listen to recorded messages. Issue date: Thursday May 2, 2024.
The study could lead the way for an animal-centred internet, researchers suggest. Pic: PA

Each bird had a profile created with their photo and tablets were provided to their owners so the birds could make video calls on Facebook Messenger.

The parrots were trained to ring a bell when they wanted to interact with the screen and also took part in a “meet and greet” session where they were introduced to other birds.

Over six months, the birds were then given access to 12 video sessions, six of which were live calls with their Facebook friends while the remaining involved watching pre-recorded videos of their bird contacts.

Findings showed the parrots preferred live chats to pre-recorded sessions, as they spent a total of 561 minutes on live calls compared with 142 minutes on playback video.

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The birds initiated 65 calls out of a possible 108 in the live phase, but just 40 in the pre-recorded sessions, the team said.

Dr Hirskyj-Douglas said the study “has given us new insight into how these intelligent birds react to the complex stimulus digital tablets can provide”.

“Their behaviour while interacting with another live bird often reflected behaviours they would engage in with other parrots in real life, which wasn’t the case in the pre-recorded sessions.”