You ever get the feeling someone has watched a piece of media and just … not got it? Like, maybe they saw Total Recall and thought the moral was “hey, Mars would be a great place to implement indentured servitude,” or watched all of Squid Game and somehow come away thinking “it would be cool and good, in my opinion, and I assume everyone else’s, to spend thousands of dollars recreating this.”
Well, it seems people may have (once again) been identifying a little too closely to the dystopian robot overlords of The Matrix. Where most of us saw a vision of factory-farmed humans sedated by a virtual reality while their bodies were endlessly juiced for their masters’ benefit and thought “eep” (or possibly, “ohhh”), apparently a bunch of dairy farmers watched the same scene and thought it looked really rad, actually.
“In Russia, cows were fitted with virtual reality goggles. We decided to try it in our own business,” Turkish cattle breeder and rancher İzzet Koçak told Turkish news outlet Anadolu Ajansi (via Interesting Engineering). “In the first stage, we trialed the virtual reality goggles on two of our animals. We monitored the process for about 10 days. We observed an increase in both the quality and quantity of milk in animals wearing the goggles.”
It seems Koçak decided to implement what we may as well call The Mootrix after an inability to afford enough feed and hay started to impact his cows’ milk production, Interesting Engineering reports. Referencing the multiple studies implying that happy cows produce more, better milk, Koçak said he first tried playing the animals classical music to counteract the effects of less fodder and more time inside – until a chance social media post alerted him to the sci-fi solution being trialed by farmers in Russia.
Keen to put the idea to the test, Koçak initially strapped his two guinea-pig cows with a pair of VR headsets each – and yes, there are photos. Since cows are not particularly arboreal or predatory, their eyes are found far apart on either side of their heads, so a normal VR headset would only cover one eye at most.
Weird and ethically dicey though it may sound, the scheme seems to be a success – at least from a milk production standpoint. The two cows who spend their time wandering virtual green pastures produce about 27 liters (7 gallons) of milk per day, Koçak told Anadolu Ajansi, which is quite a heif-ty increase from the 22 liter (5 gallon) average produced by his cows forced to face reality. In fact, Koçak said, the trial was so successful that he plans to plug 10 more of his animals into the simulation – and this time, he’s ordering them the specially-designed cow headsets from Russia.
"These glasses are emotionally good for the animals. We observed that the animals are less stressed … the quality and quantity of milk is increasing,” he explained. “We also contacted the company that produces the glasses in Russia. Hopefully, if we are successful in all 10 cows, we will order glasses from Russia for all of our herd.”