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Parrots get online

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The domain names www.parrotsonline.net and www.parrotschat.com have not yet been registered, but if researchers at MIT Media Labs have their way, they might be soon.

New Scientist reports that US scientists are trying to teach a parrot to surf the web. Arthur, an African Grey, can switch between four "sites" at the moment, but this is very much the beginning of the project.

Irene Pepperberg, a biologist at the University of Arizona and Arthur's owner says: "What we're trying to do is build a web browser for parrots."

The trouble with parrots, it seems, is that they are too clever for their own good, and being very sociable creatures they get bored and lonely very quickly. The idea behind this research is that there could be an online community of parrots who could keep each other company while all their people are out at work.

If you don't think that sounds daft enough yet, the animal loving researchers plan to build a browser for dogs too. And we mean daft in the best possible sense of the word here.

Arthur's browser consists of a plastic box with two click-able levers. One selects pictures and the other lets him listen to a few bars of music. But Arthur is not a child of the technology generation and seems deeply unaffected by any of the pictures.

Undeterred, Pepperberg says: "We haven't got software that he is interested in yet. We need to get the ergonomics of the clicker right so that he plays with it more."

Arthur's supervisor in the lab is also keen. "Toys are OK," he said, "but we want him to be social."

Bless.®

Check out the researchers' site for more details.

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