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Not sure it makes ‘any’ sense: VR for cows.

In Russia some farmers are experimenting with VR for cows. Weird. Image credit: Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region

OK, I wouldn’t have published this news on April 1st, it would surely have been taken as an April fool. I had to check in several places to be convinced it is not a prank. I even looked at the original in Russian: cows are enjoying Virtual Reality!

На ферме в Московской области протестировали прототип очков виртуальной реальности для улучшения условий содержания коров.

(Google Translator: A prototype of virtual reality glasses was tested on a farm in the Moscow Region to improve cow conditions.)

The experiment was carried out with funds from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to find out if VR may increase the well being of cows ultimately resulting in an increased production of milk.

The team created a VR visor that fit the anatomical shape of a cow head and LCD screens with colours and images adapted to recreate an immersive habitat in a summer field. The rational is that cows are becoming anxious by having to live in a confined crowded space.

The first results show an appreciation by the cows, measured in terms of biometrical data (the researchers declared a decrease in the stress level of the cows, I assume they check on blood pressure ì, heart beats … but I am no expert in cows-stress measurement). However, results are inconclusive in terms of increasing milk production…

I am not a cow so I cannot speak on their behalf but if it were me the annoyance of living in a closed space would be replaced by the annoyance of wearing a bulky visor…

Talking about annoyance in wearing a VR headset, I saw that Microsoft has decided few days ago to not support VR in their next XBox, project Scarlet, because according the Phil Spencer, XBox chief, “nobody is asking for VR“.

Structure of the haptic skin patch providing touch sensations. Image credit: Northwestern University

On the other hand, some researchers are seeing a potential in VR for the mass market, like the ones at the Northwestern University who have developed a new haptic patch that can be overlaid on your body skin to provide tactile sensations.

As a possible application example they have shown a mother talking over Internet to her young son and patting him on the shoulder from time to time. This, according to the researchers may provide a much better feeling of closeness to make the virtual presence enabled by the Internet connection fade away and mix with real presence feeling. Others, are wondering if this invention, that is expected to grow into a full wearable containing up to 1,000 actuators to provide sensations over the whole body, won’t find more “exciting” applications in other ares. If you cannot guess which one, just read the article 😉

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.