Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Bornean gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis) are the two flagship apes from the Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan Islands) that will soon appear on mobile game. By bringing the technology of Augmented Reality (AR) in the game, the users will experience how it feels to be a primate scientist tracking the two apes on their phone screen in real time. In the game, users will also encounter other “virtual” field staff or scientists that help them with the clue and information to find the charismatic orangutan and white-bearded gibbon from Borneo via chat app.
The project is carried out by Internet of Elephants ‘IoE’, a game developer based in Kenya and the United States that ventured the Sebangau peat-swamp forest in Central Kalimantan, the home to the significant population of the two apes in the wild. The team went to the forest to collect the data they need in order to create the characters of the two apes which are inspired by Fio, a young male orangutan, and Chilli the gibbon who live in the Sebangau forest.
(Prototype of Fio the orangutan in 3D mobile game character by Internet of Elephants)
While the tracking game may sound so simple to us, the process of the game creation is quite serious. The development itself began with the data collection in the field, primates follows in their natural peat-swamp forest habitat, and a lot of the discussions with the conservation and research organization called Borneo Nature Foundation that provides noteworthy insights for Fio and Chilli. The collected data were used as the basic information to bring the two characters alive in the game.
Although the game can be played by anyone, but it seems to be designated to attract more millennial who spend at least 60% of their time behind behind their smartphone screen. We could say that it’s a smart approach to introduce the nearly extinct wildlife animals to the youngsters in a way they are most comfortable with. It aims is to engage the public with wildlife conservation through the latest technology in order to break the wall that limits our understanding to our closest relatives.
The game is predicted to launch this year. After completing their on the ground research in Central Kalimantan last year in 2018, the IoE is currently entering ‘playable prototype’ phase. This means that the sample model of the game can now be tested to see if there are things that need to be improved in order to make the game look nicer. The good news is that the physical look of Fio the orangutan on 3D model is now getting more and more noticeable and Chilli’s character is to be developed soon.
The current status of the two apes in the wild is worrying with Bornean orangutan being listed as critically-endangered while the Bornean white-bearded gibbon being recorded as endangered by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
What happens to the two demands collaborative efforts from all parties to preserve the remaining population in the wild. Recent update from the Indonesian Nature Research and Conservation Agency (BKSDA) during the dissemination of Orangutan in Multifunctional Landscapes early this year estimates that no less than 80% of total populations of wild orangutan in Kalimantan live outside the preserved or protected forest area. This has led to a dramatic decline on the orangutan population due to the animal-human conflict and the business expansion in the rainforests of Kalimantan.
The game is to raise the awareness on the (ciritcally) endangered apes because of the above-mentioned issue. With the application of the latest technology, the game tries to build engaging communication products that will take us into a closer relationship between us as a human and the animals that exist around us.