Recently Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) was visited by the Internet of Elephants (ioelephants), a video game company and social enterprise based in Kenya and the United States, who come to us with their fresh ideas to develop a mobile game with the augmented reality (AR gaming) technology on the Bornean flagship primates, orangutan and gibbon. The app will bring these apes into user’s environment in real time through a tracking game on the phone.
Although the game can be played by anyone across generations, but it is expected to attract the youngsters that will be future’s change makers to wildlife conservation. Born as digital natives, youngsters are extremely tied to their phones as they spend long hours for social media, net surfing, and the games.A study by independent research firm in Asia shows that the young Asians spend approximately 60 to 64 percent of their times on the phone between the year of 2008 to 2010 with very possible increase with the growing innovation of the mobile applications. With this in mind, we could infer that the absence of technological innovation to wildlife conservation will only result in losing more animals in the following years because no one would care about it. Therefore, the game attempts to approach the next generations with innovative technology by bringing threatened wildlife species to the hands of the youngsters on their phones.
The idea of the augmented reality application is not new, but bringing wildlife as the soul of the game is fresh. The app will visualize the wildlife in form of a tracking game on users’ phone that require them search the animals through digital interactions. Jake Manion (Product Direction) and Raff Mares (Wildlife & Data Science) from ioelephants explain that game that they create aim at bringing the normal people to wildlife and this will hopefully raise their awareness on the presence of the wildlife around them. The users could take a selfie photo or cuddle up with these animals and watch them on the streets or around neighbourhood. Users can also play the game in their home or neighbourhood. “It’s a dialogue [between user and the wild animals in the tracking game] we’re trying to tell to the people, and we bring them into the virtual wildlife, so they’ll become part of this conservation games” said Jake.
“We’re not doing specific campaign on the wildlife, but rather raising the awareness as one point hidden in the game. It can also be used as the education tool to the children” Raff added. Ioelephants recently partnered with BNF to assist them with the data of orangutan and gibbbon. Being listed as critically endangered (Bornean orangutan) and endangered (gibbon) by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, choosing these two endemic primates of (Indonesian) Borneo to appear on the augmented reality tracking games will be critical to introduce general public about their presences to the world.
The game is predicted to launch next year. The team of ioelephants has just completed their ground research with BNF for the great apes. BNF has carried out extensive research on behavioural data which is collected by our experienced field staff and contribute to a database to identified groups of gibbon. As for the orangutan, BNF has also conducted over 15 years of research to this flagship ape of Borneo. During the past 13 years, 100 individuals of orangutan have been followed with more than 20.000 hours focal follow hours that make the longest and largest studies of orangutan behaviour in their wild homes.
The topic of these two primates are not only interesting to primatologist but also critical to general public to inform them while also attempting to raise conservation awareness on these two flagship primates. In partnership with BNF, ioelephants will help build this tracking game to allow user across the world experience searching orangutans and gibbons from Indonesian Borneo.