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Massive Hardware Security Flaws Discovered

Five teams of security researchers, including Google’s Project Zero, have discovered two extremely dangerous hardware security flaws. The news broke in The Register. The flaws were discovered some months ago, so they already have a spiffy website, logos, and names: Meltdown and Spectre.

Meltdown only affects Intel processors and can be fixed with a software update. Unfortunately, it comes with a performance hit of 5-30%, with older processors faring worse. Fortunately for VR in general, gaming workloads appear to be the least affected in early benchmarking tests run on Linux. Apple already rolled out a fix in December, without users seeming to notice. Microsoft is rolling out a fix for Windows 10 today.

Input/Output tasks fared a lot worse, which will mostly affect server performance; cloud servers are the most vulnerable machines to the attack because they often host multiple “virtual machines” on which remote users are allowed to run any software they like on their sandboxed portion of a shared computer. This flaw could possibly allow malicious code to read the machine’s main memory, possibly stealing secrets like access codes from other users. While this will likely affect gaming and VR services, it is likely that the performance hit can be countered by simply adding more servers.

Spectre is a trickier flaw, and far more widespread. It may affect everything with a computer chip in it that has been built since 1995, including mobile phones. Fortunately it isn’t very easy to exploit, but it can only be fixed with a hardware update, so it could be many, many years before the solution has been widely deployed, as billions of devices need to be replaced. Hackers are jumping for joy right now.

Valve Ranks Top SteamVR Experiences of 2017 By Revenue

The headline says it all! Here is the list.

CES 2018 Is Coming

Now that we have reached the new year, remember that CES 2018 kicks off next Tuesday morning. We are hoping and expecting to see more hardware coming to the Windows MR, SteamVR, Daydream and Snapdragon platforms (it would be nice to get pricing/availability for LG’s Vive competitor, for example). It’s pretty amazing after all this time to see third parties able to deliver high quality HMDs.

Harvard Researchers Improve Metalens with VR Applications

Harvard researchers have been working on metalenses for some time now. We first heard about their work in June 2016. Metalenses use nanostructures to focus light so they are extremely thin and perfectly flat. When the researchers first announced their work, they could not focus light across the entire visible spectrum. That limitation has been overcome. The new lens also does not suffer from chromatic aberration like the lenses we suffer with today. The researchers are now working to scale the design up. If they can build one the size of a micro OLED display, it would enable an extremely small form-factor head mounted display, as the lens and display could essentially be sandwiched together and mounted very close to the user’s eyes. It could also finally kill the camera bump that smartphones became afflicted with a few years ago.