Humans and pigs aren’t so different; we all like to roll around in the mud once in a while, and we all like to relax with a good game. In the spirit of European laws that require farmers to provide pigs with entertainment (i.e. a ball attached to a chain on the wall) in order to stave off aggression, tail-biting, and boredom, Dutch researchers are working on a game that allows anyone with an iPad to play with real-life pigs.
Dubbed "Pig Chase," the game features a giant touch-sensitive display located in a pig sty, where a ball of light controlled wirelessly by iPad-wielding humans floats around. When the pigs touch the ball with their snout, sparks appear. If the snout and the ball move together, virtual fireworks are set off on the touch-screen display, which ostensibly makes both pig and human gamers happy. If humans fail to maintain ball and snout contact, their ball of light fades away.
The current version of Pig Chase is just a prototype. There is no word yet on when Pig Chase will be released. And the researchers caution in a press release: "The farmers were charmed by the video images to be projected on the wall. The designers then found out that the pigs were also interested in light effects and followed them with their snout … [But] the value of the game as entertainment for pigs is unclear as yet." In other words, this might be a lot more fun for us than it is for them. Then again, so is eating them.
And the lightheartedness of an interactive pig-human game does obscure the reality of what happens to the pigs once you turn off the iPad: they end up in your sandwich. But at least European pigs get the luxury of playing games; there are no requirements for providing pig entertainment in the U.S.