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Netflix comes full circle, creates virtual video store

And a few potentially useful features from the company hack day.

First Netflix replaced tedious trips to the video store by mailing DVDs directly to your home. Then they replaced tedious trips to the mailbox by streaming movies directly to your laptop. Now, Netflix engineers have completely closed the loop by creating a virtual video store you can step into without ever leaving your living room.

Created as part of the company's most recent hack day (and thus, unlikely to ever see a real release), Netflix Zone is a blocky representation of your old school VHS emporium, except you peruse the stacks with an HTC Vive instead of driving to a Blockbuster in a nearby strip mall. Unfortunately there's no esoteric "Staff Picks" section, but the organization in the virtual store does reflect the user's Netflix recommendations and the whole place turns into a screening room when a user picks up a title for closer inspection. To play a title, you apparently pick it up off the shelf and just chuck it at a wall.

While the idea of re-living the video store experience is enticing, some of the other hack day projects are a little more practical. Take for instance a drag-and-drop homepage interface that allows you to pin categories to the top, a "Family Catch-Up" feature that reveals how far along in a series the other profiles in your account have watched, and a "QuietCast" feature that turns your phone into a wireless headphone adapter while streaming the video to your Chromecast. While, Netflix has been adding new and convenient features at a pretty fast pace recently, there's no word yet on whether or not any of these will ever actually make it into the final product.