While you might think of several ways that Virtual Reality benefits humans, VR's latest set of fans will come as a surprise, to say the least. In Russia, farmers near Moscow recently strapped modified VR headsets to their cows to see if it improved their mood and, in turn, their milk production, under an initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region. The experimental project programmed the cattle's headsets to simulate a summer field with colours adjusted to be soothing for the animals' eyes, thus providing them with a more pleasing landscape than their plain, confining farms. Of course, the VR headsets had to be adjusted as per the "structural features" of the cows' heads, so that they could see properly and it fit well. As per a statement from the ministry, the experiment was conducted at the RusMoloko farm in Moscow's Ramensky district, based on research that linked a cow's emotional experience and its milk yield.
The experiment seems to have worked since results from the first test showed that it reduced their anxiety. However, it is still not certain how this will affect the quality or volume of the milk produced by these cows. A further, more comprehensive study is in the pipeline to find an answer to this question. On the ethics front too, this experiment raises a few questions. Instead of VP simulation, why can't farmers simply leave the cows in open fields more often? Isn't there a risk of causing mental distress to the cows when their headsets and removed and they have to re-adjust to reality? How do farmers regulate battery life and how long the VR headsets are put on the cattle?
If these questions could be answered satisfactorily, it could provide a potential solution to a problem humans have created. In farms where ummery fields aren't available, or where existing techniques (like piping in pleasing music) might not be effective, VR headsets could be key to improving bovine health and increase milk production.