A farmer is testing out virtual reality headsets on cows in an attempt to convince them they’re surrounded by ‘summer fields’.
Those involved in the research are hoping the devices will help combat the animals’ ‘winter depression’ and boost milk production.
The unusual project was announced this week by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region and is being carried out at the RusMoloko farm, just outside the Russian capital.
The fact virtual fields have to be used paints quite a bleak picture for the reality of the cows’ situation, though presenting them with a vision of summer in the cold winter months actually appears to be doing them some good.
Following early tests with the headsets, the ministry noticed ‘a decrease in anxiety and an increase in the overall emotional mood of the herd’, a press release revealed.
The researchers plan to continue the study to see if the positive effects extend to an increase in milk production, as ‘examples of dairy farms from different countries show that in a calm atmosphere, the quantity, and sometimes the quality, of milk increases markedly’.
A Moscow farm has decided to equip its cows with VR glasses in order to relax and feel happier. A calm environment leads to an increase in milk yield, so the cows are given a VR headset displaying summer fields.
Как тебе такое, илон маск? pic.twitter.com/92UGS8bn7F
— Jonny Tickle (@jonnytickle) November 25, 2019
If the results prove to be a success, the VR headsets could be mass-produced for cows across the country.
You might be glad to learn the study doesn’t just involve plonking a gaming headset over the cows’ eyes and hoping for the best; instead the devices have been specially developed to fit the shape of a cow’s head.
The VR screens have also been created to cater to their vision, as studies show ‘cows are better at perceiving shades of red than green and blue tones on the color spectrum.’
Though the headsets have proven to have some positive effects on the animals, I can imagine there might also be some unfortunate side effects. When presented with a glorious vision of summer fields, the cows might desire to go for a frolic across the land, only to find themselves met with cold, hard ground.
They might even try to munch on the green grass, and be disappointed with the taste of whatever food they actually find in front of them. Admittedly I’m not sure if cows care that much about the taste of their meals, or whether they’re really ‘frolicking’ animals, but it’s worth considering.
Speaking of the project, the ministry commented:
Technology improvements should impact the industry as a whole.
The RusMoloko farm isn’t the first to use technology to improve the environment of its animals; some farmers have installed automatic rotating brushes to tend to cows, while others have been known to use music to calm the cattle.
Wherever will technology take us next?
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.