The Parrot Keyboard

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Mith & his keyboard
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The Parrot Keyboard

Prospero attacking the cameraThis whole thing came about as a result of my getting a Master's degree in computer science. I needed a subject for my capstone project, and had a sudden inspiration: Make a keyboard that would allow the parrots to interact with a computer.

The parrots have always been vastly interested in computers. They see me always busy with them, and, naturally, they want to play, too. When Mith, the African Grey Parrot, walks on the table while I'm on the computer, I have to pause every few minutes, to get him off of the keyboard. The Blue & Gold Macaw, Prospero, watchs with interest when changes appear on the screen; they are particularly interested when I surf bird-related sites, and Prospero (who's always interested in food) takes a keen interest when I'm looking through recipe sites. ("Is it hot?" he wants to know. "Mmmm. Good treat!" he'll remark.)

A human keyboard, however, is just not designed for a bird to use. There are too many keys, for starters, and the keyboard is far too easy for a bird to disassemble. If pushing a key doesn't produce any images of interest, well, then, it's quite likely to be removed.

So I set about designing a keyboard for the birds, and a software program that would provide them with images and sounds of interest to them. This site contains the text and images of my capstone presentation, which was quite a hit, and far more interesting than most computer science presentations are apt to be.

I looked on this project as a means to an end: obtaining a computer science degree by creating a research tool. And, no doubt, the keyboard and software will be extremely useful to that part of the academic community interested in researching parrot behavior and communication.

I also, however, immediately saw the neatest parrot toy ever. So did the birds. And when I have talked about the keyboard with other parrot owners, there has been a great deal of interest.

The Presentation links to the left and below will tell you everything you want to know about the process of inventing the keyboard and the development of the software. If you are not interested in the details of the software, there is a link that will allow you to skip ahead.

I have also tried to provide some answers to some of the questions we have been asked about the keyboard in use by Mith. Please feel free to explore the site, and send me any questions you may have. You can reach me at

Please note that this material is not public domain; I am in the process of applying for a patent, and all the material on this site is copyrighted. I acknowledge with thanks the images that others have been kind enough to allow me to use; please note that their images are also protected by copyright.

- John Fulton

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