Ravignani, A., Olivera, M. V., Gingras, B., Hofer, R., Hernandez, R. C., Sonnweber, R. S., & Fitch, T. W.
(2013). Primate drum kit: A system for studying acoustic pattern production by non-human primates using acceleration and strain sensors. Sensors, 13(8), 9790-9820. doi:10.3390/s130809790.
The possibility of achieving experimentally controlled, non-vocal acoustic production in non-human primates is a key step to enable the testing of a number of hypotheses on primate behavior and cognition. However, no device or solution is currently available, with the use of sensors in non-human animals being almost exclusively devoted to applications in food industry and animal surveillance. Specifically, no device exists which simultaneously allows: (i) spontaneous production of sound or music by non-human animals via object manipulation, (ii) systematical recording of data sensed from these movements, (iii) the possibility to alter the acoustic feedback properties of the object using remote control. We present two prototypes we developed for application with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) which, while fulfilling the aforementioned requirements, allow to arbitrarily associate sounds to physical object movements. The prototypes differ in sensing technology, costs, intended use and construction requirements. One prototype uses four piezoelectric elements embedded between layers of Plexiglas and foam. Strain data is sent to a computer running Python through an Arduino board. A second prototype consists in a modified Wii Remote contained in a gum toy. Acceleration data is sent via Bluetooth to a computer running Max/MSP. We successfully pilot tested the first device with a group of chimpanzees. We foresee using these devices for a range of cognitive experiments.