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Gabriel in monkey chat experiment

Former Genesis man Peter part of project to discover if chimps can communicate via video

Peter Gabriel is working on a project to discover if monkeys can communicate via video conferencing.

He’s been involved with the Interspecies Internet initiative for a number of years along with US internet pioneer Vint Cerf and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Neil Gershenfeld. 

And the former Genesis frontman is planning on running the experiment in conjunction with ape rescue centre Monkey World, which is based in Dorset, UK.

Gabriel tells Yahoo: “The idea is to extend a big video network that already exists in labs at MIT, so that different species, including our own, have a chance to communicate.

“I am also interested in how they would use the internet to communicate.”

Similar experiments have been carried out in the past – and Dr Bridget Waller, director of the Centre For Comparative And Evolutionary Biology At The University of Portsmouth, says positive results could be hard to come by.

She tells the Guardian: “In the 70s there was the idea to try and teach chimpanzees sign language to see if that would help them communicate with us. 

“We don’t really do that any more. It’s more about trying to work out what their communication – their calls, facial expressions and gestures – is about, rather than trying to teach them artificial ways of communicating.”

She adds: “We use touchscreens in our facility at the Isle of Wight, with macaques. We have shared communication systems in place. We know what some of their facial expressions and gestures mean. 

“Whether videoconferencing will help that, I’m not entirely sure.”

Gabriel was recently presented with the Outstanding Contribution To Festivals Award for his work co-founding the WOMAD festivals.

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