Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that he is fond of pigs because they "treat us as equals," and anyone who has worked with a pig can tell you that they are bright creatures. In a newly-published scientific article, four pigs were taught how to play a rudimentary video game by using their snouts to operate a joystick.
The experiment had four pigs, two Yorkshire pigs named Hamlet and Omlet as well as two Panepinto micro pigs named Ebony and Ivory, play a game where they used a joystick to move a cursor on a screen and hit targets. At first, the pigs would get food pellets for hitting the targets, but the food dispenser broke partway through testing. Despite the lack of positive reinforcement, the pigs still continued clearing levels when encouraged by the researchers. Lead researcher Dr. Cadance Croney said that this sort of research is important because, like any sentient being, "how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them."
There was also a notable skill gap between some of the pigs. Hamlet was slightly better at the game than Omlet, but the gap was much bigger between Ebony and Ivory. Ebony could hit the one-wall targets 34% of the time while Ivory was capable of hitting those targets 76% of the time. Still, the pigs' actions were "above chance," which meant they developed the association between moving the joystick and the cursor moving. Kate Daniels, from Willow Farm in Worcestershire, spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today program and mentioned that she doesn't think these results will surprise those who work with pigs. "They're not playing Minecraft - but that they can manipulate a situation to get a reward is no surprise at all."
Experiments like this one have also been tried on chimpanzees and other monkeys. Thanks to their opposable thumbs, the simians were able to reach much higher requirements from the researchers.
Now, its time to get some wolves to huff, and puff, and get the cartridges working for the pigs.