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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wanna Play With Your Food Before It's Food? There's an App For That

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 6:00 AM

It's about to be playtime for these piggies! - COURTESY PLAYING WITH PIGS
  • courtesy Playing With Pigs
  • It's about to be playtime for these piggies!

In certain circles, it's come to be accepted that a happy pig will not get bored and attack its fellow pigs or feel undue amounts of anxiety. And a happy pig is not one that wallows in shit all day -- pigs are actually very clean animals -- but one that gets to play.

For the past decade, under European law, it's been compulsory for pig farmers to provide their charges with "entertainment." On most farms, this means a few toys tossed into the pigsty. But a group of philosophers, animal welfare specialists and designers in the Netherlands banded together on a project called Playing With Pigs in order to improve on porcine playtime. The best way, they decided, was to get humans involved.

The result: an interactive iPad app called Pig Chase.

The idea behind "Pig Chase" is tantalizingly simple. The iPad screen functions as a window into the pigsty. The human sees the pigs.

  • courtesy Playing With Pigs

The pigs see bursts of light on the wall, which correspond to the spot where the human touches the screen.

  • courtesy Playing With Pigs

The idea is for the human and pig to work together to get the pig to touch its snout to a certain point on the wall. Then they win!

  • courtesy Playing With Pigs

The Playing With Pigs team was possibly the first to discover that pigs like to play with light. On their web site, they've posted some wonky musings on the relationship between pigs and humans and new possibilities in animal husbandry and agriculture.

But really, what's more adorable than seeing a pig touch a splotch of color on the wall with its snout?

Playing With Pigs is working with Gamefonds, a Dutch gaming firm, to bring "Pig Chase" to an iPad near you.

For more on pig intelligence and the importance of hog happiness, check out former RFT staff writer Kristen Hinman's James Beard Award-winning feature, "The Pope of Pork."

Playing with Pigs: Pig Chase from Utrecht School of the Arts on Vimeo.

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