Touch-Screen Technology Next Trend In Equine Research? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Touch-Screen Technology Next Trend In Equine Research?

Japanese researchers have developed and tested touch-screen technology for horses, says The Horse. In this study, ponies used their muzzles to touch the screen and indicate their answer to a shape or size question; when they chose correctly, they heard a noise and were given a carrot.

But it's not all fun and games; scientists believe that these touch-screen computers will change the face of equine research—literally—by taking the risk of human influence out of a horse's decision making.

Masaki Tomonaga, PhD, associate professor in the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute's Language and Intelligence Section, in Aichi, Japan, used the touch-screen system successfully in chimpanzees and three ponies. Tomonaga tested the ponies' abilities to discriminate between shapes and sizes. Also investigated was what was important to horses when making distinctions between shapes.

For the study, each pony stood in front of a 42-inch LCD touchscreen computer monitor that offered two choices. If the pony was able to “choose” a shape with his nose that he was previously taught to recognize, he was rewarded by the computer. The reward was an audible signal and a carrot, which came out under the screen.

The researchers tested size by asking the ponies to choose between two sizes of black circles. The sizes ranged from very similar to very different.

The researchers tested shape discrimination using eight geometric shapes, specifically large letters. Beginning with just two options (X and O), they moved to choosing between X and other letters, with X always being the wrong choice. The ponies were evaluated on 28 possible pairs of letters.

Humans and chimpanzees also were tested for the sake of comparison.

The researchers discovered that the horses learned how to use the monitors, and get their carrots, very quickly. The ponies had a difficult time choosing the correct-sized circle when the sizes offered were similar, which could be related to poor eyesight when viewing the screen.

When testing shape differences, the ponies' performance didn't vary much from that of humans and chimpanzees. However, the ponies did have a harder time distinguishing “closed” shapes like “O,” “D,” squares and triangles.

Read more about this study at The Horse.

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