The VR cows are really bumming us out

A Turkish rancher is outfitting his cattle with VR headsets to increase milk production while they're stuck inside for winter.

Have you ever seen livestock outfitted with modern consumer electronics? (The rats that learned how to play DOOM don’t count). If not, well, here you go — as first reported by The Sun, Izzet Kocak, a Turkish cattle breeder from Aksaray, has been using virtual reality headsets with a couple of members of his herd to keep them happy in confinement. Naturally, the logical response to this situation is to say something along the lines of “we have now entered the mootrix.”

Per the initial report, Kocak’s cows have been cooped up inside due to winter weather conditions and so the rancher has decided to bring in the metaverse. As shown in the photos above, we can see two headsets strapped to one cow’s eyes, and according to Kocak, the projected imagery is supposed to be a green pasture. “They are watching a green pasture and it gives them an emotional boost,” Kocak said. “They are less stressed.” Sure they are.

The headsets were first tested out in Moscow and were reportedly developed in conjunction with vets to ensure the safety of the system. The goal was to trick the cows into believing they were outside in the hope that they could produce more milk. Supposedly their output has gone up from 22 liters to 27 liters per day.

Some caveats — Everything about this story seems almost too good to be true. Typically, VR headsets have two lenses, one for each eye to establish the virtual reality effect. Unless these specific headsets have been custom-made to have one lens each, what the cows are seeing would just be a smear of an image. Accordingly, it seems more realistic that members of Kocak’s herd are receiving imagery of colors that they would be receptive to.

Included in the Sun report was a tidbit that would support this theory: “Russia’s agriculture ministry said the system was developed on the principle that cows perceived shades of red better than shades of blue and green.”

For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. In 2019, a cow-specific VR headset was created and tested out in Moscow to improve the animal’s emotional well-being.