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ISA uses technology to reach consumers

Lori Cyr demonstrates goggles at ISA exhibit
HIGH-TECH MESSAGING: Visitors to the Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair who put on these goggles had the opportunity to view a positive message about agriculture. Lori Cyr demonstrates the goggles.
Fair Find: The Indiana Soybean Alliance uses goggles that display videos to show consumers what farming is really like.

If you visited the Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair this year, you saw some of the same great displays you have seen in previous years. Each one is aimed at engaging nonfarm visitors, and telling the positive story of agriculture in a way that consumers and their families can understand.

However, this year you saw a new station called “Virtual Reality.” Manned by a volunteer, usually a soybean farmer or his wife, the goal was to ask visitors to don one of two pairs of goggles. Once they did, they could take a virtual-reality tour of either a modern hog farm or of a farmer using precision agriculture techniques.

One pair of goggles also had earphones so the consumer could hear a message at the same time he or she was viewing pigs walking toward a feeder in a finishing pen or other “almost-live” modern farming scenes. The recorded message not only explained what the person was seeing through the goggles, but also helped him or her understand why farmers do what they do on a daily basis in their operations.

With the other pair of googles without earphones, the visitor saw the same types of images — pigs walking and other farm scenes. Lori Cyr, a farmwife from Fowler, Ind., and one of the volunteers who worked at the Glass Barn, manned the “Virtual Reality” booth for a short stint. She answered questions if anyone looking through the goggles wondered about what they were seeing.

If you’re old enough, you might remember the Viewmaster, a device you put up to your eyes after inserting a disc with images arranged in a circle. You pressed a lever, the disc rotated, and you saw a different image.

ISA’s “Virtual Reality” concept is a lot like that, only you don’t press a lever; you see moving images instead of a still picture; and if you have the right equipment, you hear a message at the same time. It’s an attempt to reach today’s tech-savvy generation and tell ag’s story, Cyr says.  

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