According to The Sun, the farm in question is in Turkey, where Cattle breeder Izzet Kocak is putting his cows in the Mootrix, so to speak. Kocak has 180 cows under his wing, but isn’t subjecting all of them to daily VR sessions, as so far he has only used the head-mounted displays (HMD) on two cows. So far, results have been promising, he says. “They are watching a green pasture and it gives them an emotional boost. They are less stressed.” The Sun reports that lowering the stress levels of the cows in question has allowed them to increase their milk production from 22 liters all the way up to 27 liters. Kocak plays classical music for his cows that are still living in the real world, but says the VR experiment has been so successful he plans on buying 10 more headsets in the future.
Kocak didn’t come up with the idea of transporting cows into a virtual pasture versus the gritty reality of being locked in a coop inside of a barn. According to Newsweek, back in 2019, a farm in near Moscow, Russia outfitted one cow with a prototype headset that simulated green grass, and the project was quite a bit more complicated that it might seem at first blush. According to a press release about it from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the effort was an elaborate collaboration. “The developers of the virtual reality studio, in collaboration with veterinarians and production consultants, have adapted human VR glasses to take into account the peculiarities of the structure of the cow’s head,” read the release.
What’s interesting here is Kocak’s cow is clearly wearing two devices, so perhaps that a new prototype, or simply a kludge using existing technology. The release continues, “Building on numerous studies of cattle vision, showing cows’ perception of reddish tones better and less greens and blues in cows, VR architects have also created a unique summer field simulation program.” In other words, the IT folks couldn’t just show the Windows XP wallpaper to the cows; it’s a custom software program that takes into account how cows see the world.
According to the release from the Russian ministry, researchers around the globe have been studying the effects of “environmental conditions” on the happiness of cows, with a university in the Netherlands showing a direct correlation between the cows’ environment and both the quantity and quality of milk produced. As examples of common practices, it notes that in America cows have spinning brushes installed in their pens, so they can get a “massage,” and in Europe robots control various gates and fences to allow the cows to have more freedom to roam. It says that in Russia, the most common method for calming its cows was the aforementioned playing of classical music.
We have previously written that sluggish VR adoption has never allowed the technology to become mainstream due to several factors including price, the amount of room required for it, and lack of must-have titles. However, we ignorantly failed to take into account this new “mootaverse” of dairy cows, and were admittedly human-centric in our estimations of the technology’s future use cases. We regret the error.
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