By Julianne Dalcanton | August 19, 2009 10:43 am


Doesn’t that word conjure up the majesty of space exploration? The triumph of human drive and ingenuity?

Or perhaps, it makes you think of an automated laser-guided milking machine?

Astronaut milking machine

Seriously. Wrap your mind around that. “Automated laser-guided milking machine”.

Cow walks in when it decides it’s ready to be milked. Sensors read a tag around the cow’s neck to determine if the cow is indeed ready to be milked. If so, the machine launches a veritable Pink Floyd Lasarium around the udder, locating the teats, which are then cleaned and hooked up to the milking units. Sensors then disconnect when the milk flow drops, and the cow goes on its way.

Lasers and cows. Two fine things that I never thought I’d see together.

(and below, an informative video, if you really, really care)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food and Drink, Technology
  • Jim

    Next step:

    Laser Cows. Just like real cows.

    Only with lasers.

  • JD

    Yeah, but what about the sharks with frickin’ lasers attached to their heads?

  • Trevor

    This is absolutely hilarious… and amazing! I’m an economics graduate student, and I will certainly save this video for a future introductory course as the best example ever of substituting capital for labour.

    …. that is, until Microsoft perfects the MSN Chat Bots and deploys imaginary friends to replace our real ones.

  • Julianne

    I’m tickled by the thought of the engineers working on this. Somebody had to have a lot of expertise to decide on the proper algorithm for laser-guided teat finding. Maybe it was even a small team, and then there’d be project management meetings — “Jane, how’s the laser-guided teat finding going? Have you solved the short-cow failure mode yet?”

  • Sili

    Being of peasant extraction I think this is awesome.

    The cows decide for themselves when they want to get milked (some of them love it and go back for more – most likely because they get some goodies to chew on while they wait – that’s another reason for the nametag – we don’t want them to get overfed). And the farmhands don’t have to drag around the machines (they’re heavy).

  • per

    Hm Hm.

    I wonder if it can talk and cuddle with the cows also…. If not. Bad invention.

  • ARJ

    So I guess one can now say that ‘we can invent a computerized laser-guided automatic cow-milking machine but we can’t [insert personal pet peeve here]’…

  • Jim Harrison

    Yeah, it’s all very funny until the first drunk farmhand wanders into the machine and lowers his pants on a bet.

  • Brian


    Hey, that’s not milk (eewwww!!).

  • Chris W.

    Could you replace that gigantic image by something sized more appropriately for the page? I have to slide the horizontal scroll bar halfway to Chicago to see the whole thing, and it makes vertical scrolling kind of sluggish as well.

    (I’m using IE 7, although I don’t think that has any bearing on it.)

  • Julianne

    Sorry Chris — Looks fine under my browser. I changed the image width from “100%” to a fixed size, so hopefully that will work better for you.

  • I.P. Freeley

    It has been a lifelong fantasy of mine to get lucky with an astronaut…

  • Chris

    Here’s a song by Miriam Makeba that I choose to believe is about cows and lasers.

  • aisw

    Easier said than done.

  • Grant Canyon

    “Iā€™m an economics graduate student, and I will certainly save this video for a future introductory course as the best example ever of substituting capital for labour.”

    Great. The big $$ manufacturer gets richer and the poor farm hand who’s lost his job is on the public dole and gets poorer. (Oh, but they may offer “job retraining.” LMAO.) Wonderful

  • Pingback: GastroNomalies » Blog Archive » Cows in Space()

  • Spiv

    I’ve got to admit, as a person who does a lot of computer controlled machinery I think this thing sounds awesome. And yes, I would have loved to have put “developed laser guided teat-finder” on my resume. That’s the sort of thing that gets you an interview just so they can ask you a question. Alas, I’ll have to wait quite some time for the next opportunity to work on such a project.

    I was soooo close too, I make stuff for astronauts. I just made the mistake of thinking the space program was the right place!

  • Sarah

    “get lucky with an astronaut”

    And yes, the laser light show should include this Floyd:

  • Jim

    Alternate punchline: “Consider a frictionless spherical cow…”

  • Chris W.

    Thanks, Julianne. That did the trick. Of course, I guess that just gives Internet Explorer haters another reason to dump on it. (Maybe IE 8 would do better.) Your browser (Firefox or Chrome?) is probably doing the right thing with the width setting.

  • Eunoia

    You missed the facts about how the race timing is done for the sailing regattas off the Isle of Wight (UK) .
    Lasers @ Cowes šŸ˜‰

  • The AstroDyke

    It cheers me that the laser-guided milker has a BIG RED BUTTON, just like a telescope, for an emergency shutdown. You know, just in case the milker goes berserk and threatens Cleveland.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

See More

Collapse bottom bar