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VRoamer Generates On-The-Fly VR Experiences While Walking Through Buildings

VRoamer is a new Microsoft Research project that generates VR worlds on-the-fly while users walk through unknown building environments. Players can wear their HMD and no longer have to rely on artificial locomotion techniques such as teleportation. They simply walk through their environment and the game is built around them. This is possible through the use of a wearable tech camera that scans the environment in front of the user and visualizes a playable virtual world. The system paints its virtual environment over real world objects such as doors. The system keeps the user safe from objects in the real world, even though those objects are hidden to the user. Transitions are done through corridors that are constructed to the available space in the user's environment. Players can open real doors to progress the game and the corridors may contain weapons, enemies, keys, etc. Objects that suddenly appear in a user's environment such as other people may become skeletons or traps.

In this paper, we present VRoamer, which enables users to walk unseen physical spaces for which VRoamer procedurally generates a virtual scene on-the-fly. Scaling to the size of office buildings, VRoamer extracts walkable areas and detects physical obstacles in real time using inside-out tracking, instantiates pre-authored virtual rooms if their sizes fit physically walkable areas or otherwise generates virtual corridors and doors that lead to undiscovered physical areas. The use of these virtual structures that connect pre-authored scenes on-the-fly allow VRoamer to (1) temporarily block users' passage, thus slowing them down while increasing VRoamer's insight into newly discovered physical areas, (2) prevent users from seeing changes beyond the current virtual scene, and (3) obfuscate the appearance of physical environments. VRoamer animates virtual objects to reflect dynamically discovered changes of the physical environment, such as people walking by or obstacles that become apparent only with closer proximity.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:47 PM (CDT)

The DHS Issues Medical Advisory for Medtronic Cardiac Devices

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a cybersecurity warning that documents vulnerabilities in the Medtronic Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol. Medtronic makes cardio-defibrillators that are planted into a patient's chest and can be read and programmed by trained medical personnel. This allows the devices to communicate with home monitoring devices and Carelink programmers found at doctor's offices. These vulnerabilities require a low level of skill to exploit as the proprietary Conexus telemetry protocol utilized within this ecosystem does not implement authentication or authorization. An attacker can inject, replay, modify, and/or intercept data within the telemetry communication. This communication protocol provides the ability to read and write memory values to affected implanted cardiac devices; therefore, an attacker could exploit this communication protocol to change memory in the implanted cardiac device. Because the devices also lack encryption, attackers can listen to communications, including the transmission of sensitive data. Medtronics is working on developing updates to fix the vulnerabilities.

"It is possible with this attack to cause harm to a patient, either by erasing the firmware that is giving necessary therapy to the patient's heart, or by directly invoking shock related commands on the defibrillator," he said. "Since this protocol is unauthenticated, the ICD cannot discern if communications its receiving are coming from a trusted Medtronic device, or an attacker." A successful attacker could erase or reprogram the defibrillator's firmware, and run any command on the device.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:05 PM (CDT)

AMD Confirms Stadia Will Run on Intel CPUs

As one of the world's most pervasive cloud service providers, Google is in a better position to launch a successful game streaming platform than almost anyone. The hardware they choose to use for the launch of their "Stadia" streaming service will undoubtedly influence future game streaming efforts, hence AMD's stock price shot through the roof when Google announced they were using AMD GPUs. However, PCGamesN writer Dave James noticed that Google was conspicuously silent when it came to Stadia's CPUs. They were happy to share clock speeds, cache numbers and the fact that they're using "custom" x86 chips, but they refused to confirm the vendor of the platform's CPU. Eventually, AMD reached out and said that "the Stadia platform is using custom AMD Radeon datacentre GPUs, not AMD CPUs." Barring any surprise announcements from VIA, that more or less confirms that Stadia will run on some sort of Intel CPU platform, but just why Google refused to mention Chipzilla by name remains a mystery. The author suggested that Intel might not want to associate themself with what might be a "doomed" venture. Maybe Google plans to switch to EPYC CPUs or an unannounced Intel server platform sometime in the future, or maybe they just don't think it's particularly relevant. Whatever the reason may be, I also find the omission to be curious, and look forward to seeing what happens with Stadia's hardware in the future.

A switch to AMD's EPYC processors has been mooted as a potential future step for Stadia, and Google's Phil Harrison told us himself that "we're just talking about Gen 1 at the moment, but there will be iterations on that technology over time," so there is some potential for a changing of the processor guard either before or after launch. Whatever the truth of the matter is I still find it beyond strange that no-one involved is talking about the Intel CPUs being used for Google Stadia, even if they're not necessarily doing anything that special with regards the innovative streaming service. Certainly the multi-GPU features on offer with the Radeon graphics cards warranted mention, but just a note on the specs slide alone could have still done good things for Intel.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 11:20 AM (CDT)

PCIe SSDs Will Overtake SATA in 2019

A recent report from Digitimes claims that PCIe SSDs could finally overtake SATA SSD shipments in 2019. Unit prices for 512GB PCIe SSDs have supposedly fallen 11% sequentially, down to a price of $55 in Q1 2019, while SATA SSD prices only dropped 9%. The price gap between the different SSDs was around 30% in 2018, and according to the publication's market sources, that gap is only going to shrink as time goes on. Meanwhile, thanks to the rapidly falling prices of NAND flash memory chips, total SSD shipments are expected to rise dramatically. Digitimes expects shipments to increase "20-25%" in 2019, while a separate report claims that changes in enterprise market shipments could be even more dramatic. Relatively low prices for high performance drives with capacities of up to 16TB are apparently tempting many companies away from HDDs. Meanwhile, laptop makers are starting to ship lower-cost devices with SSDs by default, and according to PCPartPicker's latest charts, retail prices for standalone consumer drives have been dropping as well. Overall, it looks like 2019 will be a great year for anyone who's looking for more speedy storage, but the big flash manufacturer's efforts to slow production could stop the tumbling prices by 2020.

Falling average selling prices for consumer Gen 3.0x2 PCIe SSDs fitted in notebooks will accelerate the adoption of such SSDs by OEMs. This, coupled with demand for ever-higher storage capacity and speed to support cloud computing, 5G and autonomous driving applications, will further stimulate market demand for PCIe SSDs and inspire brand vendors to gear up production of such lucrative storage devices and related chips, the sources indicated. For instance, Taiwan-based IC designers Silicon Motion Technology, Phison Electronics, and Silicon Integrated Systems are racing to roll out enhanced version of PCI SSD controller chips, while major brand vendors such as Kingston Technology, Adata Technology, Transcend Information, Seagate and Micron have also listed PCIe SSDs as their mainstream product lines.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 10:17 AM (CDT)

Ransomware Encourages Victims to Subscribe to PewDiePie

PewDiePie's battle with Bollywood star T-Series has pushed some of his more enthusiastic fans to extremes. A group of hackers used printers to promote their favorite YouTuber last year, and more recently, they hacked their way into Smart TVs, Chromecasts, and Google Home devices. Now, recent reports claim that new strains of ransomware are encouraging users to subscribe to PewDiePie. The "PewDiePie ransomware" released last year didn't even bother to save encryption keys, which means whatever user data it targeted was gone for good, while a new strain that popped up this January runs in Java to make detection more difficult. However, instead of asking for a ransom, the later program simply offers a link to PewDiePie's subscription page. It claims that public keys will be released if PewDiePie hits 100 million subscribers before T-Series, while the user's data will never see the light of day again if T-Series hits that mark first. ZDNet says the software was "put together as a joke," but still managed to infect a few users, and that the code is now publicly available on GitHub. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip, and check out a demonstration of the ransomware below:

Both ransomware strains show the level of idiocy the competition for YouTube's top spot has reached. While T-Series fans have remained mostly quiet most of this time, a portion of PewDiePie's fans appears to have lost their minds and engaged in media stunts bordering on criminal behavior... The message itself has become a meme, and not in a good way.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 9:26 AM (CDT)

Steam Is Getting a Redesigned Library and New Events Features

At GDC today, Valve announced a new UI for the Steam Library. The new Steam Library has larger game icons and more categorization for your games. PC Gamer says the library reminds them of Plex or the Apple TV. The Steam Friend's List is integrated into the Library view on the right side. They noted that the coolest feature is using Steam Tags for games to create new categories such as "Ninja Action." A Beta release is scheduled for this summer. The new Steam Events page will create a new way for fans of games to connect with developers. Games in your library that are organizing occasions like game updates, streams, tournaments, and so on will be found here. This is being built in response to today's live service games. Developers will be able to get the word out to fans through calendar support for Google and iCal, Steam client notifications, email, text message, and Steam mobile app. These events will be shown in other parts of Steam also.

"We think of this as the way developers will be able to communicate with players through Steam," Kroll said. "We want to build the foundation for a communication platform where all the interesting things that are happening in games can find their way to the customers. And the customers that are interested in finding out 'what's happening in games in my library, what kind of events are happening, what's been updated recently, what are my friends doing,' making all that much easier for players to be able to find."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 21, 2019 6:32 PM (CDT)

Intel Previews Processors and Graphics Software at GDC 2019

At their GDC 2019 conference, Intel confirmed that they'll launch 9th generation mobile processors in the 2nd quarter of 2019. While 9th generation H-series and Y-series "Ice Lake" parts recently showed up on the EEC website, Intel told PC World that these parts are based on 14nm Coffee Lake Silicon. The company also mentioned that one of their goals with his release is "longer battery life" for gamers and more casual users alike, and they're promoting their Wi-Fi 6 capable AX200 chip and 3D XPoint memory with the new chips Meanwhile, Intel also showed off a new software suite for their modern IGPs and (presumably) their future GPUs. The "Intel Graphics Command Center" is essentially their answer to Nvidia's GeForce Experience and AMD's Game Advisor, as it automatically scans your PC for supported games and applies the optimal settings for your current hardware. An "early access" version of the control panel is available on the Microsoft Store, and oddly enough, it says it was "released" on 11/26/2018. Unlike other app stores, the Microsoft Store doesn't log updates or list old changes, so it was presumably in some kind of closed alpha before being officially launched today.

We asked, you answered. You're tired of our 'old, boring, corporate-looking' Graphics Control Panel. We were too and we designed a completely new one from the ground up! We're incorporating the changes you - the gamers, home theater enthusiasts, professionals, and everyday tinkerers requested. Using a phased approach, we're rolling out something we're proud to share with you: introducing the Intel Graphics Command Center.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 21, 2019 9:54 AM (CDT)

Intel Shows Off Graphics Card Designs at GDC 2019

Intel reportedly unveiled some "early designs" of their upcoming discrete graphics cards at their GDC 2019 presentation. The graphics card in the first and 2nd slides they showed largely reassembles an Optane 905P SSD with a blower fan and a conspicuously short PCB. While the Xe's specs and performance levels are still unknown, to me, the short PCB suggests that Intel will use some kind of on-package memory with their upcoming GPU, or a relatively narrow GDDR memory bus at the very least. A shot of the back reveals a full backplate, as well as 3 DisplayPort outputs and one HDMI port. Finally, the last slide shows a card with a fan right on top of the graphics chip, which is something I haven't seen on a high-end reference card in some time.

Unfortunately, full specifications are still not yet available for Intel's upcoming graphics card. Real world performance is essentially completely unknown for now. As the year goes on, there is a good chance Intel may share some numbers given how eager the company is to make everyone aware that they have a major new product incoming.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 21, 2019 8:32 AM (CDT)

AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.3.3

The AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.3.3 driver has been released and it adds support for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Generation Zero. Fixed issues include: Rainbow Six Siege may experience intermittent corruption or flickering on some game textures during gameplay. DOTA 2 VR may experience stutter on some HMD devices when using the Vulkan API.

Known Issues: Mouse cursors may disappear or move out of the boundary of the top of a display on AMD Ryzen Mobile Processors with Radeon Vega Graphics. Performance metrics overlay and Radeon WattMan gauges may experience inaccurate fluctuating readings on AMD Radeon VII.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 20, 2019 4:51 PM (CDT)

Toyota and Suzuki Announce Electric Car Partnership

Toyota and Suzuki have announced a partnership to produce electrified vehicles for the world's markets. The two companies had been considering the terms of a collaboration involving electrified cars since 2017. Toyota brings its Toyota Hybrid System (THS), hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) components such as engines and batteries, and new electrified platforms such as the RAV4 and Corolla Wagon to Suzuki. Suzuki will use its strengths to supply small car platforms to Toyota for India, allow Toyota to adopt and manufacture newly developed Suzuki engines for small compact cars, and OEM supply Toyota with Suzuki's India-produced cars for the African market. The two companies will continue to compete against each other.

"When it comes to vehicle electrification, which is expected to make further inroads, hybrid technologies are seen as playing a huge role in many markets, as from before. Widespread acceptance is necessary for electrified vehicles to be able to contribute to Earth's environment. Through our new agreement, we look forward to the wider use of hybrid technologies, not only in India and Europe, but around the world. At the same time, we believe that the expansion of our business partnership with Suzuki-from the mutual supply of vehicles and powertrains to the domains of development and production-will help give us the competitive edge we will need to survive this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation. We intend to strengthen the competitiveness of both our companies by applying our strong points and learning from each other."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 20, 2019 1:48 PM (CDT)

Anthem Was Bioware's Second Best Launch

Following their trouble with Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware has a lot riding on their last big release: Anthem. Recent reports of low physical sales, as well as mixed feedback from the players in the game, suggested that the title might not be doing particularly well. However, a recent report from NPD claims that Anthem was the best selling game of February 2019, and that it was Bioware's 2nd best launch to date, behind only Mass Effect 3. Interestingly, the report also claims that monthly "video games hardware" sales are down about 12% year to year, while software sales are up 15%.

And that doesn't even include Anthem's PC digital sales. More importantly, it doesn't count the people who signed up for EA's Access Origin Premier service for $15 per month. That figure is likely significant since that membership now gets players access to a library of older games as well as Battlefield V and Madden NFL 19.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 8:41 AM (CDT)

HP Announces HP Reverb Virtual Reality Headset: Professional Edition

HP has announced its latest virtual reality headset which is based on Window Mixed Reality (WMR.) The HP Reverb Virtual Reality Headset -- Professional Edition features a 2160 x 2160 panel per eye and 114-degree field of view. It has full Steam VR support and WMR's inside out tracking. The HP Reverb Virtual Reality Headset -- Pro Edition will be available for purchase in late-April for $649 and comes with a 1-year commercial warranty. The HP Reverb Virtual Reality Headset -- Consumer Edition costs $599 and will have a 1-year limited consumer warranty. Pro Edition price includes: HP VR Headset, 3.5m headset cable for desktop and mobile PCs, .6m headset cable for HP Z VR Backpack wearable VR PC (sold separately), 2 motion controllers, cleanable face cushion, 1 DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort adapter. The consumer edition doesn't include the .6m headset cable or washable fabric face cushion.

"As the commercial VR segment is expected to grow to $34 billion by 2022, customers are seeking lifelike VR viewing to help open doors to new business opportunities in product design, training, and engineering," said Spike Huang, vice president and global lead of VR, HP Inc. "The time for commercial VR is now and adding HP Reverb to our broader virtual reality portfolio is an important step in addressing this growing market." "With more than 2,500 VR experiences available and counting, Windows Mixed Reality continues to serve as the home for cutting-edge innovations that are fundamentally changing the way we work and play," said Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow, Microsoft. "The HP Reverb headset is an amazing example of the type of innovation we are seeing take place as we push forward and bring the next era of computing -- the era of mixed reality - to the masses."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 19, 2019 11:08 PM (CDT)