The US Navy has recently made headlines for training sea lions to play video games, using a system devised by its scientists. While this may sound like an unusual use of resources, the Navy’s focus is on marine life enrichment and cognitive stimulation for these intelligent creatures.
Meet Spike, the last of three male sea lions trained on the new gaming system. Although Spike is not his real name, he has become such an avid gamer that it’s more of a gamertag for him now. Along with his fellow sea lions, Spike has made significant progress in proving that the Enclosure Video Enrichment (EVE) system is an effective method for cognitive enrichment.
The EVE system consists of simple video games that allow the sea lions to use their eyes and snout to play. The games may be basic, but they offer cognitive stimulation to the sea lions, who need mental as well as physical exercise to stay healthy and happy.
Kelley Winship, NMMF scientist and principal investigator for research using the EVE system, says, “I really care about these animals and the lives they lead. I love all the cool stuff we can look at with this research, but at the end of the day, I want to see them happy and enjoying themselves.” It’s clear that the sea lions are enjoying their time playing these simple games, and the Navy is happy to see them thriving.
While it may be a while before we see sea lions playing Call of Duty, the Navy’s focus on cognitive enrichment and marine life enrichment is a step in the right direction. With continued research and development of gaming systems like EVE, marine life may have a more enjoyable and stimulating life in captivity.