Virtual Reality

Second Livestock – virtual reality for chickens

Second Livestock – virtual rea...
Second Livestock: 'Cockulus Rift' project aims to improve the lives of battery hens using Virtual Reality
Second Livestock: 'Cockulus Rift' project aims to improve the lives of battery hens using Virtual Reality
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Second Livestock: 'Cockulus Rift' project aims to improve the lives of battery hens using Virtual Reality
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Second Livestock: 'Cockulus Rift' project aims to improve the lives of battery hens using Virtual Reality
Chickens are fitted with VR goggles and microphones, and suspended over a motion tracking exercise ball
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Chickens are fitted with VR goggles and microphones, and suspended over a motion tracking exercise ball
Second Livestock - concept drawings
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Second Livestock - concept drawings
Second Livestock - the happy free range chicken simulator
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Second Livestock - the happy free range chicken simulator
Potential design for the buidlings in which these happy battery chickens might be located
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Potential design for the buidlings in which these happy battery chickens might be located
The Grass Mask by Austin Stewart.
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The Grass Mask by Austin Stewart.

Battery hens live pretty grim lives – but what if their lot could be improved with the use of virtual reality? Second Livestock is a project that envisions caged hens being fitted with VR goggles, microphones and movement sensors to give them the impression that they're out in the barnyard doing ... whatever it is chickens prefer to do all day. If the chickens themselves believe they're free and happy, does that mean they should get the free range stamp, even though they're cooped up?

Is this the real world? Is this just fantasy? Art is meant to start conversations – and this piece has certainly started one around the Gizmag offices.

Second Livestock is a conceptual art project that sees battery hens strapped over exercise balls and fitted with virtual reality goggles intended to convince these captive animals that they're out in the barnyard having the time of their lives.

Chickens are fitted with VR goggles and microphones, and suspended over a motion tracking exercise ball
Chickens are fitted with VR goggles and microphones, and suspended over a motion tracking exercise ball

The goggles react when the chickens move or turn their heads, and they're able to noon about in cyberspace, interacting with other chooks and generally doing whatever it is chickens do all day when they're not cooped up in cages.

On one hand Second Livestock is a comment on the cruelty of battery farming – on the other it makes us think about exactly how much of our own lives we spend staring into screens that convince us we're getting things done and having an effect on our surroundings. It's a bit depressing, really.

There's something sweet about the idea of plugging these poor cluckers into their goggles and creating a fun life for them – after all, if a chicken wears these things from an early age, how will they know the difference between real life and what they're seeing?

Second Livestock - the happy free range chicken simulator
Second Livestock - the happy free range chicken simulator

Of course, it's a sinister reality – and all it'd take would be for one chook to peck the red seed, escape from the system, learn kung fu and start dodging bullets in slow motion, and the whole system could come crashing down.

This "Cockulus Rift" idea is the work of Austin Stewart, an artist, microcontroller programmer and circuit designer. Stewart is also responsible for the "Grass Mask" as shown below – a WW1-style gas mask with wheatgrass growing out the bottom so you can breathe in freshly produced oxygen. We'll pop him on our "inventors to watch" list.

15 comments
Slowburn
It is not the worst Idea I have seen on Gizmag.
eMike
The Matrix for chickens. Man this is getting sicker every day. Let the chicken enjoy a field.
Steve Harding
C'mon people, surely this is some kind of joke....... These researchers need to spend some time back in reality. I will be physically sick if this was done using government grant money. This person needs to be smacked hard!!!
Daishi
I think some of you guys missed the article. It's worth reading.
Grunt
From his image above, one gets the distinct impression that author Loz Blain has some personal experience of the VR goggles and, it would seem, application of this technology to chickens will result in the production of the much sought after and highly commercial cuboid eggs. They make for such easy stacking in the 'fridge. Must admit I was looking for an April 1st. date tag on this article.... Hmmm!
ezeflyer
Cool. Virtual chicken sex is next.
phissith
Quack, Chickens get VR set before I do and they don't even have to pay for it!! Quack!!
bf_308
You gotta be clucking mad to follow this
Don Duncan
I don't see how this solves the problem/expense of raising free range foul. It think the inventor confuses perception with reality. What the foul believes/sees does not change the quality of the eggs/flesh. Living outside requires a special, hardier breed that grows four times slower. That makes them the most expensive, but much more nutritious. Could it be not enough people buy the much higher priced meat to incentivize capital investment? I buy it, but its rare. I have only found it at WFM.
SamC
@Slowburn you said exactly what I was thinking. This idea is crackpot! Why not spend a little bit extra and buy free range eggs or keep your own chickens or support a neighbor who does.