Capuchin monkeys learn to play Japanese arcade claw machines

We welcome our new monkey overlords

Humanity is one step closer to replacement as the dominant species on Earth after capuchin monkeys have proven capable of using arcade claw machines.

Capuchins are extremely intelligent creatures, capable of using a variety of tools in human-like ways – using stones to hammer open nuts, for instance. However, they have now proven their ability to master a machine that vexes many humans, using a claw machine – also known as a UFO catcher – to retrieve snacks.

In a collaboration between Nagasaki Bio Park and arcade company Wide Leisure (as spotted by Kotaku), tufted capuchins were given access to an arcade machine filled with raisins, and left to figure out how to gain access to the food.


In December 2021, zookeepers placed a machine in the capuchins’ enclosure, luring them to the strange booth with a stuffed toy. Over two days, and through plenty of trial and error, the capuchins eventually figure out how to manipulate the claw, pick up a cluster of raisins, and retrieve the reward from the dropbox beneath. The first to do so was a five-year-old male, described by the zoo as curious and interested in new things.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – at one point, a monkey flips a chair in frustration, a sentiment anyone who’s tried to win a prize in a UFO catcher will empathise with. Another gets so bored waiting for its treat that it tries to eat the joystick instead.

The project did give the monkeys a few assists though. The machine was set to free play, so our future monkey overlords won’t be corrupted by capitalism, and the claw would automatically descend to pick up fruit once the joystick stopped being moved, rather than a button having to be pressed first.

The intent of the study wasn’t to test the capuchins’ skill at using a crane game, but rather whether they could grasp the concept of them at all, and the concept of gaining rewards through interaction with the machine. It appears to have been a success – first crane games, next the world?


Elsewhere, Bandai Namco has provided an early look at the upcoming Tales of Luminaria anime adaptation, releasing a ten-minute clip from the project, while Final Fantasy 14 has finally revealed its Halloween event – three months later than it was originally planned.