In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a reboot of the sci-fi franchise due in theaters Aug. 5, a scientist’s attempt to cure Alzheimer’s disease leads to the development of some highly intelligent — and dangerous — apes. A new app 20th Century Fox has released for iPhones and iPads makes that fantastical premise seem a lot more plausible.
The app includes a game in which a user has the choice of playing the “easy,” “hard” or most difficult “ape” level. The game is based on a short-term memory test conducted at Kyoto University in 2007 in which the numbers 1 to 9 appear onscreen in random configurations and then are quickly covered up. The player has to remember those positions and touch the squares in numeric order to pass to the next round.
When the Japanese researchers pitted a group of young chimpanzees against 12 human volunteers, the chimps completed the task faster than the people, disproving the commonly held belief that humans are superior to chimps in all cognitive functions.
In addition to the game, the movie app includes some other interesting tidbits about the potential of our simian friends. A link to the “Apes Will Rise” YouTube channel provides videos of primates crossing the line into human behavior. One, in which a gorilla walks upright, is based on a video from a British animal park that took that Net by storm in January. Another, in which an ape wields an AK-47 against a group of soldiers, is of more, uh, dubious origin.
Unlike the primates in these YouTube videos, the ones in the movie really are human, with the lead ape, Caesar, created jointly by actor Andy Serkis and the visual effects artists at Weta Digital. There’s no information in the app about how the film’s human stars like James Franco and Freida Pinto might have fared on the memory test. Based on a study of one human conducted at the Los Angeles Times in 2011, however, apes are definitely smarter than newspaper reporters.
— Rebecca Keegan
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