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Using augmented reality to control animals in an open zoo

Image credit: https://unsplash.com/@mariolagr

Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello Aug 17, 2021
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Instead of caging animals like it is done in traditional zoos, we try to cage their realities instead. They will be controlled by using augmented reality gadgets. These gadgets will give them sensory feeds that keep them in line and protect humans from the animals and protect animals from each other.

A similar idea has been implemented on a different scale in the case of dogs that are given orders by military personnel at a safe distance from the scene of action. The AR technology used in the mentioned case will have to be improved to the extent that they provide olfactory sensations too (they would have to create artificial smells) for them to be usable for this idea.

The AR will be set to give the animals an experience that is very close to their natural habitats. It will also restrict their movement and behavior using virtual barriers that the animal will naturally avoid. For example, they can be kept from crossing a particular territory by placing a virtual moat, rock, or large trees. Human figures can also be added to their virtual realities to systematically tame them so that they would not attack humans if the AR gadgets are turned off.

With such a system in place people who visit the zoo can enter the environment and go close to the animals while being sure that the animals can not see or harm them. If the setup is successful we can have humans and tamed animals living together; our own artificial garden of Eden. Wild animals can also be domesticated without having to put them in cages.

Another advantage of this system is that research on animal behavior and crossbreeding experiments can be more controlled from the animal's point of view while they will feel natural to the animals being controlled.

One of the major challenges of this idea is the cost of implementation since every animal that can attack other animals or humans will have a set of AR gadgets. A lot of money will have to go into the area of research on AR gadgets for animals since it is a field that has barely been explored. To make things more difficult; the AR gadgets will have to be designed differently for most species.
Creative contributions

Using holograms

Povilas S
Povilas S Aug 26, 2021
What if realistic holograms were used instead. That way there would be no need to create AR gadgets for animals (such gadgets would most likely have to be invasive which would result in animal cruelty). Holograms would be turned off until an animal approached a certain mark, then to prevent it from going further a hologram would light up (visualizing a wall or any other serious obstacle in front of an animal). When an animal turned around and went far away from people standing "behind the wall", the hologram could be turned off. This way animals could freely roam the vast territory where humans were not around, but would be confined into a smaller space if there were many visitors, the "labyrinth of holograms" could be very dynamic and ever-adapting to specific situations.

Potential drawbacks:

The same holograms that would appear realistic for humans might not work for animals (especially different species of animals as the author rightly mentioned in the idea description), they would have to be adapted to the specific vision of each animal species.

Animals like to test things out beyond vision, so they might try to go through the hologram nevertheless or at least pat it with their paws, etc. and find out that it's not as real as it appears (however, the same problem is also valid for AR scenario which doesn't involve augmented tactile perception).

Animals might quickly become disoriented because of all the confusion caused by the changing holograms.
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Pilot experiment - AR ZOO

jnikola Aug 30, 2021
I think the idea is great and complex. The benefits for wildlife and science are uncountable. We are living in a world where the extinction of species happens on a daily basis. By implementing the AR into animal control, we could reach a very high level of cohabitance and possibly stop the extinctions.

How would you start developing this project? What would be the first step to make?

I imagine transforming the existing zoo into a testing site could be a nice beginning. The animals could be first controlled inside of their cages. Then I would test the AR in confronting situations where animals meet each other. When that level is accomplished, the animals could be let out to roam the whole zoo area and the system that controls the AR in each animal could be tested on a larger scale. When the system is capable of controlling many animals simultaneously, offering a full spectrum of safety features, guests could enter the zoo. The next step would be the testing in the wild, since the animals in the wilderness act differently. Cohabitation with wild animals would be the ultimate goal, but the systems controlling it should first be powerful enough and completely safe from power losses (to avoid Jurassic park scenario :D).

What do you think?
Would you approach differently?
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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello3 years ago
I think the first and realistic thing to pursue, based on the current level of technology, is the development of augmented reality consoles that can produce olfactory and haptic sensations. The other alternative that may be easier but will be perceived as inhumane is the case where the animals will have electronic devices implanted into their bodies to control how they perceive their environments. So the Augmented reality will be broadcasted directly to the animals' nervous systems.

Once the above-mentioned technologies are developed the testing can proceed as you proposed.
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A potential threat for humans

jnikola Aug 30, 2021
Although very beneficial for wildlife (mostly from a human perspective), with slight variations, it could be a nice way to control humans, too. I agree that it would be too obvious if someone implemented an AR device in your head. You would definitely want to stop it before it starts creating virtual obstacles in front of you. But what if the systems already take advantage of our crazy obsession with mobile phones and control our movement, actions, opinions and thus, control our lives? Google already picks the best routes for us, gives us recommendations, and stops us from browsing restricted content (deep web). With proposed advancements in AR technology, the threat could be much greater and we could be even more controllable.

On the other hand, by developing new technologies, we could understand their flaws and protect ourselves from the control from "above".

What do you think, could this idea remain just a tool for animals or it could take us towards a new generation of weapons (maybe too extreme, I know)?

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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello3 years ago
Like most technological innovations, it is possible to abuse the proposed AR system. It can not just be used against humans directly, it can also be used to control animals and make them attack humans while leaving little evidence to trace the real perpetrator. Policies can be put in place to prevent the use of such technologies on or against humans.

One can also argue that the use of AR to control people may be more humane and acceptable than methods that involve violence.
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General comments

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 years ago
I like the idea of using this in research. When animals are caged, their behavior changes and so does their physiology. The greatest evidence for this comes from the fact that the lifespan of animals in captivity is significantly different from that in the wild (reference: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep36361). The reference paper has studied animals in zoos that at least make an effort to construct an environment that resembles the wild. The research labs host animals in cages that are equipped to monitor the food and water intake and urine and fecal output. So, the cages provide minimal environmental support to the animals. The altered behavior and physiology might alter the results of the study parameter that is being tested in these caged animals. The AR technology might help alleviate these changes or at least provide a smoother transition when bringing animals from the wild to the labs (or zoos for that matter).
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