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The US Military Is Training Sea Lions To Play Video Games

The Navy's sea lions are becoming gamers.


The US Navy's squad of sea lions--yes, actual aquatic mammals--has been trained to play video games as part of a new research program. According to the scientists behind the program, the pinnipeds enjoy gaming just like we do.

As part of the US Navy's Marine Mammal Program, which trains sea lions and dolphins to assist in reconnaissance and recovery missions, the Navy is also bound to provide the highest standard of care for the animals in its ranks. One of the newest tools developed to keep its animals engaged and happy is a video game.

Called the Enclosure Video Enrichment system, or EVE, the game sees sea lions using an oversized set of buttons to control a cursor on a screen, completing certain objectives in a simplified form of video game.

It's one thing for the EVE program to prove that sea lions have the intelligence to play relatively complex games, like guiding a cursor through a maze, but also exciting to the researchers is that the animals seem to enjoy it. In some cases, the sea lions have even completed gaming sessions without needing the added positive reinforcement of food.

Sea lions may even have a one up on us when it comes to playing games, according to principal EVE researcher Kelley Winship. They don't get frustrated with the game even when they're not winning, and when they choose to quit it's simply because they're done playing. "You don’t really get a sea lion scoffing and throwing the controller down," Winship added.

Sea lions aren't the only Navy mammals who get to try video games--the dolphins have also been given a go, though the set up for the solely sea-dwelling creatures is a little more in-depth. You can read more about the program here.

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