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Facebook Debuts Short Virtual Reality Film ‘Henry’ for the Oculus Rift

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Henry,” a 10-minute animated Virtual Reality (VR) film for Facebook’s VR headset Oculus Rift, debuted Tuesday in Beverly Hills. Facebook hopes to persuade filmmakers to produce compelling content that attracts consumers to the Rift.

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The short film features Henry, a sweet cartoon hedgehog. With their Oculus Rift strapped on, viewers can follow Henry with full 360-degree immersion. The film is produced by Facebook’s Oculus Story Studio, which is developing original VR content to showcase the capabilities of Facebook’s VR platform and inspire filmmakers to create VR cinema content for the Oculus Rift.

Henry is a glimpse of what the future holds,

Saschka Unseld, creative director at Oculus Story Studio, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Henry has these moments of joy and sadness, and his vulnerability stays with you. He’s more than real, he feels like our friend. With VR there’s no longer a separation between me and the story. That’s the magical thing about what VR is to me.”

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A New Set of Opportunities and Creative Constraints for Cinema

HenryHenry” is the second VR film produced by Oculus Story Studio after “Lost.” Both films will be part of the initial VR content pack that will be distributed for free to all Oculus Rift owners when Facebook’s VR headset hits the shelves in early 2016. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said that Oculus Story Studio’s productions are meant to demonstrate the potential of the format, and added that 10 to 20 pieces of content will be available for the Rift at launch.

Of course, VR cinema will take off only if a critical mass of consumers will buy VR headsets, and compelling initial content must be available for that to happen. Besides producing VR demos and short films, Facebook’s VR creators are exploring and analyzing the challenges of telling a story in VR.

“What sets VR apart is the feeling of being present,” states the Oculus Story Studio website. “This creates an entirely new set of opportunities and creative constraints. Storytelling has a new vehicle and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities.”

Hollywood is debating whether virtual reality will take off and how producers will make money from the technology, Reuters reports. Award-winning directors such as Guillermo del Toro, as well as Walt Disney Co’s LucasFilm, are testing out the platform.

“You can’t really understand it by just hearing about it. You have to try it,” said Luckey. “I’m a strong believer not everyone is going to love VR right now, but everyone has a use for VR eventually.”

In related news, Nokia announced OZO, a VR camera designed and built for professional content creators. The camera was unveiled at an entertainment industry event in Los Angeles attended by representatives from major studios, production houses and media and technology companies.

Images from Oculus Story Studio.

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Electronics

Nanotechnology Breakthrough: Carbon Nanotubes Outperform Silicon Electronics

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nanotechnology

University of Wisconsin–Madison materials engineers have created carbon nanotube transistors that, for the first time, outperform state-of-the-art silicon transistors. This breakthrough points the way to future high-performance nanotube electronics.

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Bugs

Video: Stagefright Returns; 500 Million Android Devices at Risk

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A new variant of the dreaded Android-based Stagefright bug has been successfully exploited by security researchers who showed a proof-of-concept of phone getting hacked remotely. The newly discovered Stagefright bug affects users running Android Lollipop, versions 5.0 and 5.1.

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Israeli software security research company NorthBit has, in a detailed research paper, revealed that it has exploited the dreaded Stagefright Android bug which has, in the past, put a billion user devices at risk.

The complete research paper can be found here. [PDF]

The exploit, titled ‘Metaphor’ is shown running in a proof-of-concept video. The target is Google’s Nexus 5, a flagship device on Google’s stock line of Android products. NorthBit has also revealed that it has tested the exploit on other popular Android phones including the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG G3 and the HTC One.

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Fundamentally, the exploit can be triggered by simply visiting a malicious web page as the video shows below.

Stagefright is Back

The name ‘Stagefright’ comes from the namesake software library used by the Android system to parse together media such as videos. It is written in C++ and built inside the system.

It can be exploited by a malicious MMS, as a previous version of the Stagefright bug has shown. In this case, a webpage is shown to execute malicious code on targeted devices.

Google routinely plugs these vulnerabilities with monthly releases for Nexus phones and releases the source code for the patch. However, Android phone manufacturers who implement their own skinned versions of Android aren’t usually in a hurry to release patches and this leaves millions of devices at risk.

As things stand, about 36 percent of the 1.4 billion active Android phones and tablets are currently running Android 5 or 5.1. The numbers reveal that a little over 500 million Android devices running Lollipop are at risk.

The first Stagefright bug was discovered by a security researcher in July 2015, when it was revealed that the vulnerability left up to 95 percent of all Android devices (!) open to exploit.

The second variant of the Stagefright bug was discovered not long after in the same year, when a vulnerability could be exploited via an encoded .mp4 or .mp3 file sent using MMS. 950 million devices were left vulnerable to the bug.

Google has already released its security bulletin that includes system ROMs for Nexus devices along with the patch for all other Android devices, for the month in the first week of March. It is yet to be seen if the newest vulnerability hastens Google into releasing another patch this month.

A spokesperson for Google wasn’t immediately available for comment at the time of publishing.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Hacking

Video: Hacker Uses Smartphone to Hack a Connected Car

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An associate professor and white-hat hacker, Hiroyuki Inoue, has demonstrated a proof-of-concept showing cars that are equipped with internet-connected devices can be hacked and even remotely controlled by wielding a smartphone.

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In an experiment, Hiroyuki Inoue, an associate professor at Hiroshima City University’s Graduate School of Information Sciences, Japan, has proved that connected cars can be remotely hacked with a smartphone application. The associate professor and hacker used a 2013 Toyota Corolla Fielder Hybrid for the demonstration, as reported by the Japan Times.

It is important to note that the exploit isn’t one to affect cars that are still driven as manufactured in stock as their onboard computers do not have internet connectivity.

However, Inoue warns that cars that have been modified and enhanced with internet devices privately could potentially be hacked. The claim comes during a time when many major automobile manufacturers including those in Japan are experimenting and even actively developing self-driving vehicles.

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Another Connected Car, Hacked

Putting together a Wi-Fi device as a contraption with parts available commercially that cost him about ¥10,000 (approx. USD $82). He also developed a smartphone application that was used to – among other hacks – remotely control the car.

Inoue connected the Wi-Fi device to a commonly found terminal located under the Toyota’s steering wheel. Such terminals are routinely used to plug in monitoring devices during a car’s maintenance. Once connected, Inoue discovered that the car’s computer contained unencrypted data that controlled critical functions such as the vehicle’s engine, brakes and other functions.

As the video shows, the associate professor was able to manipulate the speedometer reading on the dashboard even though the car was stationary while parked.

Inoue said:

 Important (data) communication was in full view from outside. Other cars could also be subject to hacking in the same way.

Furthermore, he was also able to replicate a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack by inundating the car’s computer with a large amount of requests and data. Unsurprisingly, the action led to a complete paralysis of the vehicle, despite the accelerator being stepped on by the driver. The white-hat hacker was also able to raise and lower windows with the smartphone application reigning in control of the on-board computer.

Also read: $32 Hacking Device Opens Car & Garage Doors

In light of the news, an official representing the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association confirmed that the collective industry will work on cybersecurity measures in tandem with the government.

Hiroyuki Inoue confirmed that the details of his exploit will be further revealed during a three-day cybersecurity symposium that commenced on Tuesday in Okinawa, Japan.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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