An Iowa State University professor has a fresh idea for how to improve living conditions for confined chickens on farms — give them omni-directional treadmills and headsets to create a virtual reality living environment.
Austin Stewart has created a website for a theoretical company that could one day develop that technology. The company, called Second Livestock, is fake, according to The Verge, but it is Stewart’s way of showing how a virtual reality world for farm chickens could be implemented.
Stewart’s concept is more about provoking serious discussion of ideas for more humane treatment of farm animals than promoting his technology. But when he recently presented his concept for audiences at an Iowa exhibition, he still made an effort to portray it as a legitimate alternative to current farming practices.
“My goal with the presentation is to make it so people are not sure if I’m serious,” Stewart told the Ames Tribune.
Currently, some chickens are allowed to walk around in small spaces for an hour per day, the Second Livestock website points out. But by creating a virtual reality world for those chickens, they can have the experience of living free-range lives, moving freely throughout their virtual environment just as they would in the outdoors without the risk of injuries or predators.
Stewart acknowledges that his system isn’t financially feasible at the moment.
“Right now, it would be far too expensive to actually implement this full system,” Stewart told the Ames Tribune, adding that “in order to ask the question in a way that really makes it real for people, I had to show that this technology is plausible.”
So far, Stewart has created a virtual world using 3D computer software and tested it on humans with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
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