For Immediate Release
"The Mating Game" teaches players how zoos use science to select
which individual gorillas to breed for the captive management of these
animals. The concept, created by Zoo personnel, is based on 1970s game
shows and is hosted by "Bob Zoobanks."
"Educators agree that interactive learning like this is very valuable
to students," says Jones, the lead researcher.
Richard Hezlep, the video production manager in Zoo Atlanta's Department of Conservation Technology, says, "By approaching the subject in a light and fun way, the game is successful at reaching not only kids with its interactive animation, but also adults by means of the nostalgic game show theme."
Zoo staff members, as well as middle school students, have reviewed the
game and given it a "thumbs up," Hezlep adds.
IMTC staff designed "The Mating Game" to run on a kiosk in
the Zoo; that kiosk will be installed soon. Then to give the game a wider
audience, IMTC staff created a Web version. The game is intended for students
in fourth grade and up, and is available online at www.animalexplorers.org
as the first installment of programming in the Caring for Gorillas initiative.
The Web site is hosted by PeachStar, a division of Georgia Public Broadcasting.
In the introduction, Zoobanks explains to players that the methods for selecting individual gorillas to breed are sort of like computer dating for animals. The goal is to keep populations healthy by choosing the right individual gorillas for captive breeding. To do this, zoos need a good understanding of genetics, animal behavior and logistics, Zoobanks adds. To demonstrate, he invites players to participate in "The Mating Game."
The game can be played by one to three people at the same computer workstation.
With one player, the game offers a choice of three gorilla bachelors.
The player answers for her selected bachelor, and the computer answers
for the other two. The gorilla bachelorette asks the bachelors randomly
selected questions -- via signs, not voice -- to determine the right mate.
"How old are your parents?" the bachelorette inquires in one
game. "Where do you live?" and "What are you afraid of?"
are other questions.
Zoobanks asks the three bachelors to answer by choosing from the three
possible answers provided. The host awards the bachelors five, 10 or 15
points based on the explanation that he gives after the answers have been
entered. If the players tie, Zoobanks asks a tiebreaker question.
Before revealing the best bachelor, the game presents a brief animated
"commercial" for bananas. Then Zoobanks is back to announce
which "lucky bachelor" wins a date with the bachelorette. The
winners receive an all-expense-paid trip to Zoo Atlanta's Ford African
Rain Forest, a naturalistic habitat for gorillas.
While IMTC has vast experience in digital media processing, the staff
got its first taste of creating an interactive educational game when they
worked on "The Mating Game." It was a challenge they enjoyed,
animation program, and then optimized its operation for better performance
via the Internet. For users with dial-up access, a lite-audio version
is available. A Pentium II 600 mHz processor is the minimum configuration
required to run the game properly.
Beyond "The Mating Game," Jones and his colleagues in IMTC
have worked with Georgia Tech's Center
for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC)
program on an educational virtual-reality-based project to teach American
students about Japanese culture. Called i-irasshai, which means "welcome"
in Japanese, the project -- funded by the National
Endowment for the Humanities -- will be nationally distributed soon
on CD-ROM to schools via public broadcasters.
The CD and a companion Web site (www.gpb.org/peachstar/i-irasshai)
use Shockwave to integrate a theme-based to-do list, a contextual map
and an animated assistant, and QuickTime software to provide a 360-degree
view of Japanese cultural sites, such as homes, shrines, temples, markets,
ports and trains. The result is a virtual tour of Japan, Jones says.
"We have observed middle school students using this program, and
the student response has been positive," Jones says of i-irasshai.
"That's very rewarding."
Now, IMTC is proposing to the National Endowment for the Humanities the
development of other interactive educational programs. First on the list
is a program to teach American students about Mexican culture with the
underlying goal of promoting cultural sensitivity. IMTC would collaborate
with CEISMC and the Georgia Tech Department
of Modern Languages on the Web- and CD-ROM-based program.
"For people to understand another culture, you have to immerse them in that environment," Jones says. "The activities and tasks in these interactive educational games do that."
RESEARCH NEWS & PUBLICATIONS OFFICE
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30332 USA
MEDIA RELATIONS CONTACTS:
1) Brian Jones, Georgia Tech Interactive Media Technology Center (404-894-1074); E-mail: (email@example.com).
2) Richard Hezlep, Zoo Atlanta (404-624-5949); E-mail: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
WRITER: Jane Sanders