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Researcher Prove iOS Activation Lock Can Be Bypassed

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

ios-screen-lock-150x150Two researchers report that they have discovered a way to bypass the activation lock feature in iOS that’s supposed to prevent anyone from using an iPhone or iPad marked as lost by its owner.

The first report came Sunday from an Indian security researcher named Hemanth Joseph, who started investigating possible bypasses after being confronted with a locked iPad he acquired from eBay.

The activation lock gets enabled automatically when users turn on the Find My iPhone feature via iCloud. It links the device to their Apple IDs and prevents anyone else from accessing the device without entering the associated password.

One of the few things allowed from the activation lock screen is connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network, including manually configuring one. Hemanth had the idea of trying to crash the service that enforces the lock screen by entering very long strings of characters in the WPA2-Enterprise username and password fields.

The researcher claims that, after awhile, the screen froze, and he used the iPad smart cover sold by Apple to put the tablet to sleep and then reopen it. This is supposed to restore the state of the tablet from where it was left off, in this case, loading the WPA2 screen again with the long strings of characters filled in.

“After 20-25 seconds the Add Wifi Connection screen crashed to the iPad home screen, thereby bypassing the so-called Find My iPhone Activation Lock,” he said in a blog post.

Hemanth said he reported the issue to Apple on Nov. 4, and the company is investigating it. He tested the bypass on iOS 10.1, which was released on Oct. 24.

Last week, a researcher named Benjamin Kunz Mejri, from German outfit Vulnerability Lab, posted a video showing the same bypass, but on the newer iOS 10.1.1 version.

Kunz Mejri’s method is similar and also involves overflowing the Add Wi-Fi form fields with long strings of characters but also requires rotating the tablet’s screen in order to trigger the crash after the smart cover trick.

Apple has not yet confirmed that issue and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

‘Distributed Guessing’ Hacking Turns Focus To Credit Card Numbers

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

credit-card-theft-150x150Credit card fraud has been added to the list of things that distributed processing can hasten.

An e-commerce site will typically block a credit card number after 10 or 20 failed attempts to enter the corresponding expiry date and CVV (card verification value), making life difficult for fraudsters who don’t have a full set of credentials.

But there are plenty of e-commerce sites out there, and it’s possible to obtain missing account details by submitting slightly different payment requests to hundreds of them in parallel.

It takes less than six seconds to perform the “distributed guessing attack,” according to the researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K. who figured out how to do it.

Guessing the expiry date of a valid card isn’t all that difficult: Cards are typically issued for five years at most, so sending the 60 possible values to different websites will get a confirmation from one of them. The three-digit CVV is a little harder, involving spreading 1,000 requests across multiple websites.

“Practically unlimited guesses can be made by distributing the guesses over many websites, even if individual websites limit the number of attempts,” wrote researchers Mohammed Aamir Ali, Budi Arief, Martin Emms, and Aad van Moorsel.

The title of their paper asked the question: “Does The Online Card Payment Landscape Unwittingly Facilitate Fraud?”

Their answer is emphatically yes — at least for Visa cards, for which they were able to submit sufficient requests to obtain the missing values.

MasterCard’s centralized payment network, on the other hand, detected their attack on a card account after fewer than 10 authorization attempts.

Ali and colleagues studied 389 websites drawn from the 400 most-visited according to Alexa.com. Of those, just 47 used the 3D Secure authorization system, making them immune to the attack.

The weak links in the system were the 26 sites that required only the card number and the expiry date to validate payment. The 20 of them allowing at least six guesses provided ample capacity for guessing such an easy answer.

A further 291 sites would validate a card number with just the expiry date and CVV — but with 238 of them allowing six or more guesses, the CVV could soon be obtained.

Is More ZEN Information Coming This Month?

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While waiting for Zen is remarkably like waiting for Godot, we have just been told that AMD will be holding a sneak peek of its high-performance Zen CPU on 13 December.

The preview will be streamed at 1 p.m. PST on December 13. You can sign up at AMD’s website to have a shifty. The host of the event will be the video gamer hack, Geoff Keighley and it will be called “Watch New Horizon.”

According to the email the event will be an “ exclusive advance preview of our new ‘Zen’ CPU ahead of its 2017 Q1 launch”.

“See eSports & Evil Geniuses legend PPD put ‘Zen’ through its paces. There’ll be appearances from special guests and giveaways. This is the first time the public will be able to try it themselves and see its capabilities. If you’re serious about gaming, this is an event you do not want to miss.”

What we are expecting is that AMD will show off the quad-core version of Zen. AMD will have four Zen-based CPUs in the “Summit Ridge” family launching early next year.

The top end will probably include two eight-core chips with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, and an SR5 with six cores, and a quad-core SR3.

What we are curious about is if the pricing rumors are correct. The highest-end 8-core will be $500, while a second, slower eight-core chip could be as low as $350. This will really scare the bejesus out of Intel as it is promising better performance for half the price.

Other rumors say that the six-core SR5 will hit the shops for $250 and the quad-core SR3 will be $150. Intel gear will set you back $320 for its quad-core Core i7-6700K chip, and the cheapest six-core costs $380.

Courtesy-Fud

Nokia Smartphones Poised For A Comeback

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

nokia-hq-150x150Nokia smartphones are gearing up for a comeback after former managers at the Finnish company licensed the handset brand from Microsoft and struck up partnerships with Google and phone manufacturer Foxconn.

Nokia was once the world’s dominant cellphone maker but missed the shift to smartphones and then chose Microsoft’s unpopular Windows operating system for its “Lumia” range.

Nokia quit smartphones in 2014 by selling its handset activities to Microsoft to focus on mobile network equipment. Microsoft continued selling Lumia smartphones under its own name but this year largely abandoned that business, too.

 HMD Global, led by Nokia veteran Arto Nummela, wants to launch its first Nokia smartphone in the early part of next year using Google’s Android operating system.

Success will require a dash for scale by stealing business from Apple, Samsung and dozens of other players in a cut-throat industry.

“Consumers may be carrying different smartphones now, but are they really in love and loyal to those brands?” said Nummela in an interview.

The Nokia consumer brand lives on as the badge on cheaper, entry-level “feature phones” sold mainly in Asia, India and Eastern Europe, though Microsoft invested little to market the name in recent years. Smartphones typically cost anywhere from ten to 30 times as much as these basic phones, which sell for as little as $20.

“For a new entrant, having an established brand provides it with an instant on-ramp,” said mobile phone analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight, who suggested that phone vendors with weaker brands should not take the new challenge lightly.

“The barriers to entry for the Android phone space are low,” said Wood. “What HMD has is the Nokia brand and management experience. The key to its success will be driving scale.”

CEO Nummela, who was once responsible for Nokia’s sales and product development, does not lack ambition.

“We want to be one of the key competitive players in the smartphone business,” he told Reuters.

HMD President Florian Seiche previously worked at Siemens, Orange, HTC and Nokia. Chief Marketing Officer Pekka Rantala is a former CEO of Rovio, the maker of the Angry Birds game, as well as a Nokia veteran.

“We are not going to skip any markets in the long term,” Seiche said, adding that HMD had already set up offices in 40 locations around the world.

Facebook Developing Artificial Intelligence To Patrol Live Videos

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

fb-logo-3-150x150Facebook Inc is developing a way to automatically flag offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company’s director of applied machine learning.

The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site.

Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company “community standards.” Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company.

Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is “an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies,” he said.

The company already had been working on using automation to flag extremist video content, as Reuters reported in June.

Now the automated system also is being tested on Facebook Live, the streaming video service for users to broadcast live video.

Using artificial intelligence to flag live video is still at the research stage, and has two challenges, Candela said. “One, your computer vision algorithm has to be fast, and I think we can push there, and the other one is you need to prioritize things in the right way so that a human looks at it, an expert who understands our policies, and takes it down.”

Facebook said it also uses automation to process the tens of millions of reports it gets each week, to recognize duplicate reports and route the flagged content to reviewers with the appropriate subject matter expertise.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in November said Facebook would turn to automation as part of a plan to identify fake news. Ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. election, Facebook users saw fake news reports erroneously alleging that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump and that a federal agent who had been investigating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was found dead.

However, determining whether a particular comment is hateful or bullying, for example, requires context, the company said.

Is There A Need For A Mobile Netflix?

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

hatchA former Rovio exec has formed a new firm that hopes to revolutionize the way mobile games are played with Hatch, a new cloud-based streaming platform for smartphones.

Unveiled during this week’s Slush Festival in Finland, the venture is headed up by CEO Juhani Honkala, previously SVP of Rovio Entertainment, and centers around an instant game collection that players will be able to access without the need for downloads, installations or updates.

The service is planned for soft launch on Android in 2017, with iOS and other platforms to follow. There will be around 100 games available at launch, with Honkala promising Slush attendees that users can “start playing any game as easily as watching a movie on Netflix”. The cloud-based server technology has been run in partnership with Huawei Technologies.

Major partners already on board range from Bandai Namco, Taito and Ubisoft to notable independent developers such as Ustwo Games and Double Fine Productions. Titles already on the way will include Badland, Broken Age, Cut The Rope 2, Leo’s Fortune, Monument Valley, Pac-Man CE DX, Rayman Fiesta Run, République, Space Invaders Infinity Gene and more.

“I’d like to invite you all to be part of this journey,” Honkala said, addressing the developers in the audience, before giving an overview of Hatch’s new business model.

Honkala’s firm will handle the monetization of games on Hatch so developers can focus on the creation process without having to think about how to get users spending. Games will be monetized with “integrated, unobtrusive advertising and brand storytelling, as well as optional paid subscription that unlocks additional features and content”, according to the official release. There will be no in-app purchases, with Hatch’s library focusing on “full-featured, premium experiences”.

The service will also eventually feature exclusive games known as Hatch Originals, for which Honkala and his team are currently seeking investors.

The CEO pointed to how Spotify and Netflix has changed how people enjoy music and movies respectively, as well as how the rise of YouTube, Instagram and easily-shared content has “created a completely new generation of superstars”.

“There hasn’t been that kind of disruption in the mobile gaming industry,” he said. “We are playing mobile games exactly the same way as we used to play them five years ago. There has been no real innovation.”

In addition to its role as a games-streaming platform, Hatch’s built-in social functionality is designed to get more players connecting. Users will be able to rewind their gameplay and select video clips that can instantly be shared via Hatch or more established social media platforms.

There will also be multiplayer capabilities, and not just in the way you might expect. Recalling his childhood of playing single-player games together with friends and family, Honkala said Hatch will allow users to work together on titles such as Cut The Rope – even if they’re in different locations. Connected players will be able to share the game’s controls and chat about their next move or strategy.

“It’s not only about gaming,” he said. “It’s a new way to spend quality time with the people you love.”

He added: “The mobile has become the major gaming platform on the planet and mobile games bring joy to millions and millions of people around the world. But somehow I feel something very important got lost in the process.

“The numbers show that yes, we are playing more than ever but we are not really communicating, we are not sharing and we are not really playing together any more. When was the last time you really played together with your friends and family?”

The introduction of Netflix-style subscriptions is one experts have been predicting, with App Annie’s CMO Al Campa recently telling GamesIndustry.biz he expects to see the model break into the mobile games space soon. While game-streaming has previously been tried – most notably in the form of troubled service OnLive and Sony’s PlayStation Now – the complexities and high production of console-style titles has made it difficult for this concept to take off. The relative simplicity, at least in terms of file size and so on, of mobile games means Hatch could stand a good chance of delivering the cloud-based service the industry has been striving for over the past five years.

Courtesy-GI.biz

The NHTSA Wants To Block Mobile Apps From Drivers

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

distracted-driving-150x150The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed new guidelines that is requesting automakers to create a way to block applications on smartphones or tablets that can distract drivers.

Currently no safety guidelines exist for mobile devices when they are used while driving, the NHTSA said.

The new guidelines, which were published last week and are in a comment period, instruct automakers to create a “Driver Mode” similar to Apple’s Airplane Mode on iPhones, which takes the smartphone offline.

The new guidelines are the latest effort by the federal government to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

 In proposing the guidelines, the NHTSA pointed to a rise in U.S. traffic fatalities and injuries in the past two years, a good percentage of which can be connected to drivers who are distracted by mobile technology, it said.
In 2015, some 10% of the 35,092 U.S. traffic fatalities on record involved one or more distracted drivers, and those crashes resulted in 3,477 fatalities, an 8.8% increase from the 3,197 distracted-driving-related fatalities in 2014, according to the NHTSA.

Of the 5.6 million non-fatal, police-reported crashes in 2014 (the most recent year for which this data is available), 16% were distracted-driving-related crashes and resulted in 424,000 injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines distracted driving activities to include using a cell phone, texting, and using in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) technologies such as navigation systems.

In 2013, the NHTSA published Phase 1 Driver Distraction Guidelines that focused on visual-manual interfaces of electronic devices installed as original equipment, such as infotainment centers.

Those phase 1 guidelines included a definition for distracted driving as any “single average glance” that takes a driver’s attention away from the roadway for more than two seconds or “where the sum of… individual glances” are 12 seconds or more while performing a testable task, such as selecting a song from a satellite radio station.

The Phase 1 guidelines recommended that interfaces and tasks determined to be more distracting than its specified levels should not be accessible to a driver on the road.

 

Facebook Adds Popular Games To Messenger App

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

fb-messenger-app-150x150For users who enjoy the popular Facebook Messenger app, it’s game time.

The social network has rolled out a feature that allows users to play hugely popular games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, the company’s latest attempt to get users spend more time on its messaging app.

The new feature, initially rolled out in 30 countries with 17 games, will be available on the latest versions of iOS and Android operating systems.

A user, in the midst of a conversation, can tap on a game controller icon to choose a game and start playing. The feature also allows user to challenge their friends for a game.

Facebook made Messenger a standalone app in 2014, a move that initially irked many users. The app, however, gained popularity after the company added a host of features to it.

The social network has also added instant video and payment facilities to the app.

Facebook boasts of having more than one billion users for its messaging app, making it one top three apps in the world.

Its main Facebook app is the most popular, followed by Messenger and WhatsApp, the messaging service it bought in 2014.

Is TSMC Going 12nm Too?

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

According to industry sources, TSMC is planning to introduce a 12 nanometer half-node process to enhance competition with 28nm and lower process nodes that have been adopted over the past few years.

The chip manufacturer’s 12nm process node will join its existing 16nm process portfolio as a smaller option in order to give it a competitive advantage against Samsung and GlobalFoundries. It is expected to offer improved leakage characteristics at a lower cost than its 16nm lineup. TSMC currently offers three variants of its 16nm FinFET process designed both for high-performance devices, as well as for ultra-low power situations requiring less than 0.6 volts.

Back in September, GlobalFoundries was the first to announce a 12nm process using Fully Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) planar technology. The foundry claims that 12FDX can deliver “15 percent more performance over current FinFET technologies” with “50 percent lower power consumption,” at a cost lower than existing 16nm FinFET devices.

TSMC currently supplies 16nm chips to a number of American, Chinese and Taiwanese companies including Apple, Nvidia, Xilinx, Spreadtrum and MediaTek, while GlobalFoundries provides chips using 14nm FinFET technology for AMD’s Polaris graphics cards and upcoming Zen processors. Meanwhile, Samsung provides 14nm LPP technology to Qualcomm for its Snapdragon 820 series and for use in its own mobile device lineup.

Although TSMC’s 12nm process was originally planned to be introduced as a fourth-generation 16nm optimization, it will now be introduced as an independent process technology instead. Three of the company’s partners have already received tape-outs on 10nm designs and the process is expected to start generating revenues by early 2017. Apple and MediaTek are likely to be the first with 10nm TSMC-based products, while the 12nm node should become a useful enhancement to fill the competition gap before more partners are capable of building 10nm chips.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel Makes A Score With Delphi Automotive

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has signed a deal with Auto parts maker Delphi Automotive Plc and Israeli technology firm Mobileye.

The move will put Intel chips under the bonnet of their joint effort to produce self-driving vehicles by 2019.

Intel is also working with German luxury car maker BMW AG and Mobileye on self-driving technology. However so far, the chip maker has not made much of a dent in the autonomous vehicle market.

Glen De Vos, Delphi’s vice president of engineering announced that Intel will provide a “system on chip” for autonomous vehicle systems that Delphi and Mobileye are developing together.

UK-based Delphi is talking with established automakers and new or niche vehicle companies, such as manufacturers of commercial vehicles, interested in automating vehicles, De Vos said.

The system Delphi and Mobileye are developing would likely come to market first in a commercial vehicle operating in a limited area, such as an airport shuttle or a ride-hailing service, DeVos said.

Delphi is testing its autonomous driving technology in vehicles in Singapore. By the end of this year, Delphi hopes to choose a city in the United States to launch a test fleet of self-driving cars during 2017, De Vos said. The company is also looking for test site in a European city.

Courtesy-Fud

AT&T Launches New Video Streaming Service

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

directv-now-150x147If you’re looking ditch cable TV, a new video streaming service from AT&T will be available starting today.

DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet.

Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs.

There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.

The programming lineup includes Disney channels, ESPN, AMC, Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, Fox, and many more channels. HBO and Cinemax can be added for $5 each. A deal to add CBS and Showtime is being negotiated.

NFL Sunday Ticket won’t be available with the service, but AT&T is also negotiating to add the service. NFL content will still be available on the games broadcast on NBC, Fox, and ESPN. When CBS is added, its NFL games will be available, too.

AT&T also plans to add a cloud DVR service in the coming years. Subscribers will be able to watch two streams simultaneously on separate devices.

The interface is key to the success of a streaming TV service. DirecTV Now will be able to track the programs users are watching and provide recommendations based on categories. The content is categorized as TV shows, movies, and networks. The interface will list shows people are watching, and users will be able to search content.

DirecTV Now is the third major streaming TV option after Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV. It’s competitive on price with PlayStation Vue, which starts at $40, but not as cheap as Sling, which has fewer channels for $20.

For AT&T, DirecTV Now is a big deal and a new way to deliver programming. It’s also a way to say goodbye to the ubiquitous DirecTV satellite receivers.

“This is the foundation for how we’ll do things in the future,” said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group.

Nissan To Offer Maintenance Alert Option For Internet-connected Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-logo-150x150Nissan Motor Co will mark its first major entry into internet-connected cars by offering an option in some new vehicles that will use big data technology to notify drivers when vehicle maintenance is required.

As automakers compete fiercely to develop self-driving cars and improve the customer experience inside vehicles, Japan’s second-largest car maker said on Tuesday it will begin rolling out the service in Japan and India in 2017, followed by other countries through 2020.

With the availability of new mobility options including ride-hailing and car-sharing services threatening to cool demand for individual car ownership, automakers are looking for new ways to attract loyal drivers.

 Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s biggest car maker, announced earlier this month that it will have a similar alerting feature in the domestic version of the upcoming Prius plug-in model.

And Ford Motor Co last month announced that by year’s end, some of its models will be able to communicate with smart home devices using Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

Nissan said that it would also market the device required to access the service, which can be retrofitted into existing models. In the future, 30 percent of its existing vehicles would eventually be equipped with the hardware, it said.

The new service will be enabled by a telematics control unit which will enable the automaker and its dealer network to access information about the car’s diagnostics and location, alerting the driver to any required maintenance work.

“With connectivity we can provide better information and better service offerings to our customers,” Kent O’Hara, Nissan corporate vice president and head of its global aftersales division, told reporters at a briefing.

“We’ll know what’s wrong with that vehicle, we’ll know where the vehicle is, we’ll know what parts are needed for the vehicle … and we can provide convenient service and alternative transportation options.”

He added that connectivity services and other new technologies would contribute 25 percent of the automaker’s aftersales revenues by 2022, from “low, single digits” at the moment.

 

Delphi Automotive, Mobileye To Use Intel Chip For Self-driving Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

mobileye-1-150x150Auto parts maker Delphi Automotive Plc and Israeli technology firm Mobileye NV will use an Intel Corp chip for their joint effort to produce self-driving vehicles by 2019, the companies said on Tuesday.

The move is a boost for the world’s largest semiconductor maker, which is also working with German luxury car maker BMW AG and Mobileye on self-driving technology, but has not been able to extend its broader chip dominance into the fast-emerging autonomous vehicle market.

Companies from Alphabet Inc’s Google to Uber Technologies Inc and Tesla Motors Inc are vying to put autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads, which could radically reshape transportation across the country.

Intel will provide a “system on chip” for autonomous vehicle systems that Delphi and Mobileye are developing together, Glen De Vos, Delphi’s vice president of engineering, told Reuters.

UK-based Delphi is talking with established automakers and new or niche vehicle companies, such as manufacturers of commercial vehicles, interested in automating vehicles, De Vos said.

The system Delphi and Mobileye are developing would likely come to market first in a commercial vehicle operating in a limited area, such as an airport shuttle or a ride-hailing service, DeVos said.

Delphi is testing autonomous driving technology in vehicles in Singapore. By the end of this year, Delphi hopes to choose a city in the United States to launch a test fleet of self-driving cars during 2017, De Vos said. The company is also looking for test site in a European city.

“We are looking at Pittsburgh and Boston and a couple of others,” De Vos said. Pittsburgh is where ride services company Uber is testing its own self-driving vehicles.

Delphi and Mobileye will stage a demonstration of their self-driving vehicle system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, De Vos said. That system will use current, electromechanical laser imaging technology, or LIDAR, that is too expensive for use in consumer vehicles, he said.

Delphi is also working with Quanergy Systems, a maker of solid-state LIDAR systems, De Vos said.

Can Virtual Reality Find A Voice?

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

As we near the end of a pivotal year for virtual reality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done. With the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, consumers finally have access to the technology that has commanded much of the industry’s attention and excitement for the past four years but only now can we gauge how popular it may become.

That’s according to Aki Järvinen, founder of research and consulting initiative Game Futures, currently working at Sheffield Hallam University. Järvinen will be speaking about trends in virtual reality development at this week’s Develop:VR conference in London. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out his thoughts on the industry’s next step after this year’s long-awaited hardware launches.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example. How does the isolating, solitary nature of current VR tech affect the frequency of use and thus retention with games? Early data shows that game time spent on VR titles is nowhere close to PC titles in the same genres.

“Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, has talked about how the Internet has proceeded to its current form as streams and flows, from its ‘newspapery’ web origins. I expect something similar to happen with VR games; currently, it’s about imitating existing genres with the added value of VR-enhanced sense of presence, but developers and designers should experiment with other paradigms.

“2016 has been the first proper year for developers to test the waters on if the market is profitable yet and learn about releasing games for the actual retail platforms. Strategic product decisions are being made as we speak, based on these early experiences.”

Many developers have said that virtual reality tears up the game design rulebook, requiring completely new theories and practices when it comes to game creation. By now, studios have poured years into experimenting with VR games and it would be fair to argue that the early pages of that rulebook have been written – but Järvinen believes the conventions and best practices established so far are largely temporary.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice. We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

With more changes expected from the headsets themselves, plus the accessories and controllers supporting them, Järvinen argues that the time span has been “too short for [findings] to stick” and that gameplay design solutions in use now will be almost irrelevant in just a few years.

“If one looks at games like Batman: Arkham VR, for example, the designers have clearly tried to turn the current constraints of the platform – lack of movement in particular – to their advantage, and design gameplay around the constraints,” he says. “They’ve done this with very deliberately crafted, static setpieces that leverage VR’s other strengths, such as experiencing the scope and scale of things in a more startling, life-like way. Yet, once those movement constraints go away, it’s hard to see anyone designing in that paradigm anymore. So it’s an agile rulebook in constant change.”

The future of virtual reality will, therefore, be defined by its hardware rather than its software, and the Game Futures founder predicts significant evolution from the devices people are picking up in stores this Christmas.

“VR has enough momentum now that it will go along the typical development path of similar technologies,” says Järvinen. “Headsets will become smaller, untethered, of higher resolution, trackers invisible, and so on. When these developments are able to coincide with lower production costs to the degree that retail price points become truly affordable, then we are on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Parallel to this, software has to evolve.”

It’s easy to argue that virtual reality software is already quite unevolved. With a handful of more ambitious or high-production projects being the exceptions, the vast majority of launch software for Oculus, Vive and PSVR is limited. Most current virtual reality titles offer a more immersive first-person perspective for long-established gameplay genres, with little more than the novelty of viewing the action through the headset to differentiate it from what has come before. Perhaps the most blatant examples are the waves of shooting gallery-style VR games, where players are restricted to either an on-rails experience, a gun turret or standing on the spot, blasting away at waves of enemies that appear in often scripted patterns.

Järvinen says the prominence of these games so far is “a concern” but believes that as the market evolves, both in terms of hardware and software, “the lesser formulas will wither out”.

He adds: “So far developers have benefited from the rush of early adopters who basically purchase or download everything. This might lead to vanity metrics, such as bloated download figures, or bloated revenue estimates, as there has been lots of free promotions, bundles, and so on. But the VR market cannot be sustained with spikes from early adopters and therefore the more inherently ‘VR’ titles and game design aspects will eventually prevail.

“VR in its current form still has too many disabling contexts in play, such as retail price, PC requirements, and the fact that many people experience nausea. While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

The cultural challenges that virtual reality faces are by far the most significant. 2016 has seen VR find the audience it was originally intended for and would inevitably appeal to the most (that is, avid consumers of video games and emerging technology) but hopes remain high that the tech will grow to have mainstream appeal. Certainly, that seems to be the intention of Facebook, which acquired Oculus back in 2014 and earlier this year showed off new social communication functions such as virtual chat rooms at September’s Connect event.

“While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

Järvinen believes the social network has spent enough effort and money on virtual reality that “they’ve gone past the point of abandoning creating its mass-market appeal” but suggests future forms of the hardware will have more impact on the technology’s attractiveness than the companies backing it.

“True mainstream appeal would require technological developments, such as miniaturisation, but also use cases where users see obvious benefits. Facebook seems to bet on the social dimension being the latter. Creating accessible tools for VR content creation could be the home run.”

As such, we can expect to see more companies from beyond the games industry investing in the technology and those developing for it. While it might not reach the headline-grabbing heights of Facebook’s $2bn Oculus acquisition, there is little danger of funding for virtual reality projects drying up any time soon.

“The wow factor with VR is strong enough that, when executed innovatively by a capable team, investors will get on board,” Järvinen says. “Therefore I believe investments will stay steady but perhaps we won’t see news about the more exuberant sums before the market finds its own Supercell.”

Järvinen concludes by stressing that the non-games, even non-entertainment, applications for virtual reality will go a long way to not only broadening the technology’s appeal, but writing more pages of that agile rulebook.

“We should not forget applications of VR beyond games and entertainment,” he says. “I believe journalism can use similar aspirations for a heightened feeling of empathy, achieved by leveraging that sense of presence VR can produce. We are already seeing signs of this with 360 video pieces distributed via VR platforms.

“Lots of interesting stuff is also going on in medical applications and research, such as burn victim therapy via VR. Real estate market could benefit in a big way from virtual viewings. So VR will not have one end goal, but many.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

U.S. Government Dispute Claims Of Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

cybersecurity-jobs-150x150The U.S. government has publised what it claims is myth-busting data regarding the shortage of cybersecurity professionals. The data points to its own hiring experience.

In October 2015, the U.S. launched a plan to hire 6,500 people with cybersecurity skills by January 2017, according to White House officials. It had hired 3,000 by the first half of this year. As part the ongoing hiring effort, it held a job fair in July.

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “We set out to dispel certain myths regarding cybersecurity hiring,” wrote Angela Bailey, chief human capital officer at DHS in a blog post Monday.

One myth is this: “There is not a lot of cyber talent available for hire,” said Bailey. “Actually, over 14,000 people applied for our positions, with over 2,000 walking in the door. And while not all of them were qualified, we continue to this day to hire from the wealth of talent made available as a result of our hiring event.

“The amount of talent available to hire was so great, we stayed well into the night interviewing potential employees,” said Bailey.

The experience of the U.S. government seems counter to what industry studies say is actually going on.

For instance, a report released one day before the government’s job fair in July, Intel Security, in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), pointed to a “talent shortage crisis” of cybersecurity skills.

David Foote, co-founder and chief analyst at Foote Partners, is skeptical of the government’s findings, and says there’s really no unemployment among people with cybersecurity skills, “so why would they go to a job fair?”

In particular, asked Foote, why would someone take a government job that will pay less than a beltway consulting firm?

The salary for a senior cyber security specialist, with five or more years experience, in the Washington D.C. metro area is is $132,837, said Foote.

The salary range for an IT specialist in cybersecurity ranges from about $65,000 to to $120,000, depending on skills, experience and educational attainment.

Foote said the appeal of getting a security clearance may have motivated some to apply for a government job. A security clearance can open up subsequent private sector jobs.

But Foote suspects that the U.S. is focusing on hiring people it can train, and not on hiring someone with experience and who would command much higher salaries than can government offer.

In cybersecurity, experience is critical, said Foote. “Cybersecurity is something you have to do, you have a develop an instinct and you only do that with hands on,” he said.

 

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