It has been demonstrated that, on average, elephants in captivity live about half as long as their wild counterparts. Many have strongly speculated that this variance is partly due to captive elephants’ decreased body conditioning; 74% of elephants in American Zoo Association accredited zoos are either overweight or obese. Correlative analyses have shown that elephants with the best body conditioning scores are very likely to have individualized, “staff-directed walking exercise” for at least fourteen hours per week. As has been seen at the Phoenix Zoo, elephants experience boredom and lethargy in much the same way as humans. The keeper-elephant relationship is critical to elephant motivation. Thus, Elefit aims to foster elephants’ entertainment, stimulating their drive to play via an interactive technological experience. We are excited and hopeful that Elefit will ease the role of the zookeeper by directing elephant exercise autonomously.
Through meetings with the Phoenix Zoo, the team was able to develop and receive support for the first design proposal, the motion sensor simon game. A rough sensor prototype was made using an arduino board to portray a simple simon game. The team gained approval from Heather Wright for the zookeepers to be able to train the elephants once a good sensor prototype is completed. A prototype was built using PVC and LiDAR sensors to test the fit and function of the design at the Phoenix Zoo. This will allow the team to test the responsiveness of the elephants and their willingness to play the game as well as the suitability of the LiDAR sensor for the final prototype. Consequently, a full size acrylic frame was developed in Fall 2019 to provide a simulation setting for the electronic sensors. Significant research has gone into the cue testing and interframe communication. As desired from the end of the previous semester, the project was able to complete a wooden version of the full sensor frame, as well as basic scripts to operate the LiDAR and cue devices. “