The US Navy’s Sea Lions Are Gamers Now

Though you may not be aware of it, the US Navy has an elite team of sea lions and dolphins. Their mission is to help out with reconnaissance and rescue missions. However, the Navy has been working on ways to keep these marine animals happy. Surprisingly, they’ve found a new way to keep their aquatic buddies happy: Gaming. And not only do they understand how to play games, they also seem to enjoy playing them.

The US Navy Turned Sea Lions Into Gamers

Gaming sea lion

This new research into gaming with marine mammals is part of a program the Navy is working on to keep morale up for its sea creatures. This is where EVE, or Enclosed Video Enrichment, comes in. The EVE is a simple game system made for sea lions to help cognitive enrichment as well as see how intelligent they really are.

However, it’s now becoming more of entertainment for the sea lions. EVE places the sea lions in front of a screen, allowing them to control a cursor through a maze with the help of arcade buttons on a controller placed in front of the screen. The sea lion will press the buttons to move the controller in a direction, allowing them to control the cursor. After they complete a puzzle, they’re rewarded with food.

However, the sea lions are now voluntarily playing with EVE without the reinforcement of treats. Of course, getting them to this point took a bit of convincing.

According to an article published by the US Navy, the sea lions were trained so the only person who was relevant stimuli was the trainer. When EVE was brought in, they didn’t understand the connection, and had to learn that EVE was also important. After one session of seeing trainers play the game, and receiving treats after every challenge, they realized EVE is something they can play with too.

Now that they’ve grasped it, they’re playing with EVE just for fun, without rewards. Over 400 game sessions later, they’re already hooked on the game much like humans enjoy video games.

While it won’t help them on missions, EVE does keep the sea lions happy. That’s in addition to living longer lives as a result of this cognitive addition. Just goes to show that the joy of gaming goes beyond the simple human condition.