VR devices have been on the rise over the past few years, with more and more households owning a virtual reality headset for recreational use. Even gaming giant PlayStation has got in on the act. You can even get your hands on high-quality VR cases from companies like the Case Farm.
Alongside this exponential rise of humans using VR as a means of fun, it turns out animals are also being introduced to VR. Scientist are using VR devices to study the minds of animals, but has it all gone too far? The questions of animal welfare have been raised by many, which is why we’re exploring how (and why) animals are being subject to VR – and whether it’s humane to do so.
Caged chickens could ‘roam free’ with VR
Austin Steward, a design professor at Iowa State University, has proposed that VR could be used to trick chickens into thinking that they are free range – when they are actually contained within small cages along with thousands of other chickens. It’s thought that the chickens will be much happier thinking they are roaming free, but this has raised many moral questions – even with those who aren’t opposed to animal testing for science.
The good news is it was just an idea (and somewhat of a joke) to generate discussions around animal welfare… but could we be heading towards this?
Playing VR games with fish
This one doesn’t involve a VR headset specifically, but scientists are instead projecting virtual environments onto a screen whilst assessing how the fish respond. It’s thought that this form of research can help scientists learn about their behaviour like never before. In fact, it can even assess how animals learn about their environment and how they behave towards other animals.