I’m just going to put this out there – I don’t remember a time before Netflix, and I don’t want to.

When it comes to virtual reality, however, I’ve only used it a couple of times for work and can’t really imagine using it at home. The same is probably true for most people I know.

That’s why I was surprised to hear PwC’s prediction that within the next five years there will be as many VR active headsets in the US as Netflix users.

The company’s annual report on global media reckons that by 2022 there will be over 55 million active VR headsets in the US, which is the same amount as the country’s paying Netflix membership as of the end of March.

It’s gone as far as to predict that revenue-wise VR will be the fastest-growing media and entertainment category over the next five years, expecting it to rise from $414 million in US revenue in 2016 to $7.2 billion by 2022. 

It sounds pretty crazy but with AMC, Disney, Sony, Time Warner, and Netflix all experimenting with VR, Stranger Things have happened!

Immersive tech does hard sell for retail

When I shop I get so tired and cranky that anything that means I don’t have to venture into a store is music to my ears.

That’s why I’m pretty excited about the news that we could soon all be strapping in when we hit the shops, according to a new report by data and analytics company GlobalData, which believes immersive technologies like VR and AR are set to transform the sector.

It sees a bright future for the tech, from AR being used to guide customers around stores, provide information about products and support employees, to VR giving customers immersive product demonstrations.

It reckons the tech could also help employees on the shop floors and behind the scenes by delivering virtual training or feeding them information through smart glasses leaving their hands free to do other jobs.

There’s already some cool uses of the tech, like IKEA’s showroom, which uses 3D VR to showcase its products and L’Oréal’s Make Up Genius bar that lets woman use AR to see how makeup would look on them.

Lots of furniture companies are letting users figure out how products would look in their house through AR too.

“AR and VR have been tested in retail for a while, but have only been implemented in a limited way so far,” said GlobalData digital retail analyst Andreas Olah.

“However, this is expected to change as major supermarkets, department stores, fashion retailers and DIY stores look to roll out them for various purposes, from in-store navigation and virtual apparel trials to product demonstrations, games and interaction with virtual shop assistants.”

Samsung Galaxy gets into gear

Tech giant Samsung is changing things up, with reports that its ‘Gear’ products are going to be rebranded as ‘Galaxy’. 

So far the company has used Gear to cover anything that isn’t a phone, like Gear Fit, Gear VR and Gear smartwatches.

However SamMobile has reported that they had confirmation that things were changing, with the tech giant adopting the Galaxy brand across the board, including its virtual reality offering.

The site had confirmation that Gear VR will transform into Galaxy VR, although it’s not known yet when this will happen, and reckons it’s also looking likely the fitness trackers and smartwatches will follow suit shortly after.

Beyond good news for sports firm

Beyond Sports

Last week we heard how the BBC was planning on using VR to transport fans to give fans a goal-side view of the World Cup.

This week the news is focussed on the other side of business, with a Dutch AI company securing $2.36m funding to help sports teams train using immersive tech.

The company combines VRAR and AI with data to help sports teams improve their performance. We spoke to them last year for this comprehensive VR in sport feature in our magazine.

It will use the funds to grow its product development team and expand into additional sports and healthcare markets, with its eyes on the prize of breaking the US.

→ READ MORE: SPORTS VR INNOVATOR CLOSES $2.36M SEED ROUND

Parking the troubles of traffic wardens

We’ve all seen traffic wardens making their rounds, striking fear into the hearts of drivers who wonder whether they paid enough into the meter.

Technology company IPS Group wants to use AR to give enforcement officers AR smartglasses or mobile devices that show AR images, to check the area’s parking meters at a glance.

They’ll see a city block with AR overlays of parking meters, which will tell them which have expired, which have technical faults and how much the meter has made that day.

They can also get information on cars and their owners, checking vehicle history or owner information by viewing a licence plate, which could help with hunting down or discovering stolen cars.

Birthual Reality

When I think about the kind of places I’d like to be transported to by VR I think of sun-soaked islands like Hawaii, wonders of the world like the pyramids or even imaginary hotspots like the mountains of Mordor.

What I don’t think about is finding myself at the business end of a hospital birthing room… yet one company has done just that. And, as it turns out, there is method to their madness.

As reported by CNET, Nordic insurance company Gjensidige Insurance has created a 10-minute 360-degree immersive video to let young expecting couples get a peek behind the veil and find out what to expect when they give birth.

Should you wish to, you can watch the video below: it gives the viewer a glimpse over the shoulder of the mother before, during, and after delivery of the baby.

I also watched a promotional video about the experience, in which a doctor said she was seeing women becoming increasingly anxious about giving birth.

It then interviewed couples who had watched the YouTube video, and they pretty much all said they were actually feeling more relaxed about what was coming - which is almost as miraculous as the childbirth itself.

Users can also get their hands on a Google Cardboard-like 'Birthual Reality' headset to really get up close and personal during this special moment.

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