Yes, This Is a Cow in a VR Headset

Russian initiative says VR headsets reduce bovine anxiety, may boost milk production
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2019 10:00 AM CST

We imagine when cows dream, they must dream of lazily idling in sunny green pastures. On one Russian farm, a virtual reality experiment is being conducted in the hopes that such visions can help cows pump out more milk. The Moscow Times reports that a regional agricultural administration has fitted bovines on the RusMoloko farm in Krasnogorsk, northwest of Moscow, with VR headsets in an attempt to relax the cows to see what effects that has on milk production. A release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region says the headsets are specially designed to fit each individual cow's head shape, as well as to conform to how cows see different colors. The ministry says the study was spurred by previous research in other countries on how a cow's environment impacts the creature's health.

According to the ministry, the first phase of the experiment—seeing how the VR headsets affected the cows' overall—showed "a decrease in anxiety and an increase in the overall emotional mood of the herd." The next goal is to see if the VR-wearing cows turn out more milk than those without the headsets. The Verge is somewhat skeptical, noting "it's not at all clear whether this is a genuine trial or an elaborate marketing stunt"; the site points out the ministry's press release urges people to sign up for an upcoming dairy forum. Either way, folks are having fun with the visual, calling it a "hi-tech moo-vement." Some are more cynical. "This is a perfect metaphor for what this world wants us to become eventually: obedient beings immersed in fake reality that manipulates their minds," posts one rueful commenter. (More cows stories.)

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