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Cows wearing VR headsets might produce better milk

They're happier in virtual fields than confined farms.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 26, 2019
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Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region

It's not just humans who can benefit from VR. Moscow-area farmers strapped modified VR headsets to cows to see if it improved their mood -- and, of course, their milk production. The project subjected cattle to a simulated summer field with colors tuned for the animals' eyes, giving them a decidedly more pleasing landscape than a plain, confining farm. And yes, the headsets were adapted to the "structural features" of cows' heads so that they could see properly.

It appears to have worked, at least on a basic level. The first test reduced the cows' anxiety and boosted their overall sentiment. While it's not certain how well this affects the quality or volume of milk, there are plans for a more "comprehensive" study to answer that question.

The research begs a few questions. Why not just put the cows in fields more often? How do you deal with battery life? And is there a risk of disturbing cows when you take their headsets off and show them dreary reality? In a sense, it's a solution to a problem humans have created. Those issues aside, this could be an option for farms where summery fields just aren't available, or where existing techniques (like piping in pleasing music) might not be effective. Just don't expect a bovine version of Beat Saber any time soon.

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