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Stanford Researchers Develop Next-Generation Virtual Reality Headset

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Stanford researchers have developed a Virtual Reality (VR) headset that reduces eye fatigue, nausea, and “VR motion sickness,” often reported by users of VR headsets. The device, developed by the Stanford Computational Imaging Group, is a light-field stereoscope that creates a more natural VR experience than today’s leading headsets.

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“Virtual Reality is exploding today in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and beyond,” notes Gordon Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and the Computational Imaging Group leader, in the video. In fact, Facebook’s VR headset Oculus Rift, scheduled to hit the consumer market early next year, and similar devices developed by other manufacturers, are poised to transform entertainment and social interaction online. Recently Steven Spielberg joined a Holliwood VR company as an adviser, and the era of VR cinema is starting.

“Virtual reality gives us a new way of communicating among people, of telling stories, of experiencing all kinds of things remotely or closely,” said Wetzstein.

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It’s going to change communication between people on a fundamental level.

Avoiding VR Motion Sickness

Light Field StereoscopeHowever, while current VR display technology imitates natural vision, it doesn’t yet imitate natural vision well enough to avoid unnatural feelings, and some people get VR motion sickness (apparently more women than men report getting VR motion sickness).

In current “flat” stereoscopic virtual reality headsets, each eye sees only one image, explains Wetzstein. Depth of field is also limited, as the eye is forced to focus on only a single plane. In the real world, we see slightly different perspectives of the same 3D scene at different positions of our eye’s pupil. Therefore, VR headsets introduce “a conflict between the visual cues your eyes focus on and how your brain combines what your two eyes see.”

The researchers developed a new light-field stereoscope technology that creates a sort of hologram for each eye to make the experience more natural. The light field creates multiple, slightly different perspectives over different parts of the same pupil. Viewers can freely move focus and experience depth in the virtual scene, just as in real life. Wetzstein said:

You have a virtual window which ideally looks the same as the real world, whereas today you basically have a 2D screen in front of your eye.

The device, dubbed “Light Field Stereoscope” and develoepd in collaboration with NVIDIA, will be presented and demonstrated at SIGGRAPH 2015. It’s interesting to speculate on the possibility that NVIDIA, in collaboration with the Stanford Computational Imaging Group, could enter the VR headset market. Writing on Seeking Alpha, technology stock analyst Paulo Santos notes that a high-performance VR headsets require a high-end GPU, which makes the sector a natural match for NVIDIA.

Images from Stanford University, NVIDIA, and Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Tom A

    August 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Dan Lanman did this like 4 years ago…

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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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