Virtual reality set to become $15bn industry by 2020: Report

The virtual reality industry will be worth $15.89bn by 2020, according to a newly released report by market research agency Research and Markets.

Despite the fact the most high-profile VR device, the Oculus Rift, has not yet been released to consumers, Research and Markets believes that the industry will see over 60% growth every year for the next five years, transforming it from a fringe technology enjoyed by the techy few into a major medium for gaming, entertainment and business.

The report, which treats augmented reality technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens as a subset of the VR market, also predicted that fully immersive VR headsets would prove to be more popular, and thus form a larger part of the market, than their AR cousins.

oculus-rift-1

While VR is set to see growth around the world, it is thought that North America will see the fastest growth of the industry, with the Asia-Pacific region coming in second.

Some of this growth is undoubtedly going to be down to the release of new headsets and adoption of the technology, but the explosion of software for VR, one of the biggest catalysts for the industry’s projected increase in value, is set to play a major role.

A lot of this software is going to be targeted at consumers, with a surge in both entertainment and gaming software set to be on the way.

But there is also likely to be a rise in business, industrial and medical applications, with the report specifically highlighting VR’s potential for both healthcare and training.

Images courtesy of Oculus

Images courtesy of Oculus

However, while Research and Markets projects major growth for VR by 2020, the company has also highlighted limitations with the technology that will put some users off and thus hamper its growth.

In particular the low resolution and limitations on how much a wearer can move their head were identified as major restraints, as it is thought they will limit how immersive the technology can be; those of us who have used Oculus’ developer versions may well disagree.

There were also concerns about display latency and the level of energy consumption by VR devices, which may reduce the technology’s performance. Not all consumers have powerhouse computers, and many will be expecting to get good results using their laptop, regardless of how unfeasible this may be.

However, while the first generation of consumer VR devices is just around the corner, by 2020 we will no doubt be working with far more sophisticated – and hopefully less energy intensive – headsets, and by then many of these concerns may seem like distant memories.

Adding stem cells to the brains of mice “slowed or reversed” ageing

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists “slowed or reversed” ageing in mice by injecting stem cells into their brains.

The study, published online in the journal Nature, saw the scientists implant stem cells into mice’s hypothalamus, which caused molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) to be released.

The miRNA molecules were then extracted from the hypothalamic stem cells and injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of two groups of mice: middle-aged mice whose hypothalamic stem cells had been destroyed and normal middle-aged mice.

This treatment significantly slowed aging in both groups of animals as measured by tissue analysis and behavioural testing that involved assessing changes in the animals’ muscle endurance, coordination, social behaviour and cognitive ability.

“Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates aging,” said senior author Dongsheng Cai, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.

“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of aging throughout the body.”

To reach the conclusion that stem cells in the hypothalamus held the key to aging, the scientists first looked at the fate cells in the hypothalamus as healthy mice got older.

The number of hypothalamic stem cells began to diminish when the mice reached about 10 months, which is several months before the usual signs of aging start appearing. “By old age—about two years of age in mice—most of those cells were gone,” said Dr. Cai.

Images courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

The researchers next wanted to learn whether this progressive loss of stem cells was actually causing aging and was not just associated with it.

To do this, the scientists observed what happened when they selectively disrupted the hypothalamic stem cells in middle-aged mice.

“This disruption greatly accelerated aging compared with control mice, and those animals with disrupted stem cells died earlier than normal,” said Dr. Cai.

Finally, to work out whther adding stem cells to the hypothalamus counteracted ageing, the scientists injected hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of middle-aged mice whose stem cells had been destroyed as well as into the brains of normal old mice.

In both groups of animals, the treatment slowed or reversed various measures of aging.

The scientists are now trying to identify the particular populations of microRNAs that are responsible for the anti-aging effects seen in mice, which is perhaps the first step toward slowing the aging process and successfully treating age-related diseases in humans.

Self-driving delivery cars coming to UK roads by 2018

A driverless vehicle designed to deliver goods to UK homes is set to take to the road next year after the successful conclusion of an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Developed by engineers at The University of Aberystwyth-based startup The Academy of Robotics, the vehicle, Kar-Go, is road-legal, and capable of driving on roads without any specific markings without human intervention.

Kar-Go has successfully raised £321,000 through Crowdcube – 107% of its goal – meaning the company now has the funds to build its first commercially ready vehicles. This amount will also, according to William Sachiti, Academy of Robotics founder and CEO, be matched by “one of the largest tech companies” in the world.

Images courtesy of Academy of Robotics

The Academy of Robotics has already built and tested a prototype version of Kar-Go, and is working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim to produce the fully street-legal version.

The duo has already gained legal approval from the UK government’s Centre for Autonomous Vehicles, meaning the cars will be able to immediately operate on UK roads once built.

The aim of Kar-Go is to partner with suppliers of everyday consumer goods to significantly reduce the cost of deliveries, and the company’s goal in this area is ambitious: Sachiti believes Kar-Go could reduce delivery costs by as much as 98%.

Whether companies go for the offering remains to be seen, but the company says it is in early stage discussions with several of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in Europe, which would likely include the corporations behind some of the most recognisable brands found in UK supermarkets.

Introducing Kar-go Autonomous Delivery from Academy of Robotics on Vimeo.

While some will be sceptical, Sachiti is keen to drive the company to success, and already has an impressive track record in future-focused business development. He previously founded Clever Bins – the solar powered digital advertising bins found in many of the nation’s cities – and digital concierge service MyCityVenue – now part of SecretEscapes.

“As a CEO, it is one of my primary duties to make sure Kar-go remains a fantastic investment, this can only be achieved by our team producing spectacular results. We can’t wait to show the world what we produce,” he said.

“We have a stellar team who are excited to have begun working on what we believe will probably be the best autonomous delivery vehicle in the world. For instance, our multi-award winning lead vehicle designer is part of the World Championship winning Brabham Formula One design team, and also spent years as a Design Engineer at McLaren.”