Archive for March 2016

Just yesterday, the Oculus Rift received its first ever (and generally praise-filled) reviews. That said, reviewers were also apt to point out some more obvious flaws with the first generation technology.

The headset display is generally seen as well-crafted and surprisingly durable for the sensitivity of the technology it supports. The well-known drawbacks include its steep costs (US $600) and the fact that its true gaming potential can only be unlocked with those financially blessed enough to host a powerful enough gaming system to really run it.

oculus rift2“Just as with every new technological milestone, it has the potential to change the world. But at this early stage, only a few can afford it,” explained Devindra Hardawar, writer for Engadget.

The cost will of course come down as the technology becomes more familiar and more VR systems enter the market with competitive pricing. The quality will also undoubtedly improve as the years go by, though how developers will react to VR’s issue of bulky hardware remains to be seen.

“When you first put on a Rift, you are all too aware of the headset. It’s somewhat comfortable, but the way it envelops your head can make it feel like a helmet,” described Peter Brown, writer for Gamespot.

“Not every VR game is going to be an instant hit,” continued Brown. Other reviewers also wrote of being unimpressed by the first wave of VR games programmed for the Rift. That said, Mario Aguilar of Gizmodo stated that the games made for the finished hardware were actually fun and far superior to the early development builds released months back.

“These issues can’t take away from the fact that Rift delivers on its promise to enable more immersive and personal gaming experiences than we’ve ever seen before,” said Brown after reexamining his complaints regarding the games themselves. After all, the first wave of games are more of an experiment than a proof of concept.

Early buyers of the Oculus Rift will have to make due with a headset and a single Xbox controller, while a motion-supported controller is still undergoing development. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, warned that an upgrade may be necessary for VR aficionados to access a truly immersive experience:

joculus rift“It plays best with two external cameras and two VR controllers. It ships with one external camera and an Xbox controller, which cripples the experience… This will get fixed later in the year with a more expensive version.”

And of course there’s the issue of the Rift’s raw youth in terms of its technology and its brand; it will take years for the company to receive accurate and complete data regarding that people hope to do with the technology and how best to use it.

The final common complaint involves the fact that gamers must remain tethered to their computers during gaming sessions, limiting the VR experience.

“Once this connects with gaming systems designed for it and with 2D treadmills, this will likely change,” continued Enderle.

“Folks are also recognizing that the idea of being able to actually integrate the room, like with Micosoft’s HoloLens, might be a really good idea now.”

Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg has been a major investor in the Rift and is hoping it will unlock the door to entirely new communication systems.

The encryption battle between Apple and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation shows no signs of letting up; the FBI’s attempts to compel Apple to write software that would unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists under the authority of the 18th century All Writ’s Law has caused controversy throughout the tech world. The role of social media and tech companies in the fight against terrorism continues to be the subject of debate.

encryptCraig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of engineering, recently stated in an op-ed piece published yesterday in The Washington Post that the FBI’s efforts actually threatened to weaken national security.

According to Federighi, terrorists and other malintended criminals could launch attacks on the infrastructure vital to our every day life through access “to just one person’s smartphone.” He went on to describe encryption on smartphones as “a critical line of defense.”

Federighi also criticized law enforcement officials over their request that Apple return to the safeguards created for iOS 7. These safeguards “have since been breached by hackers,” wrote Federghi. “Further, hacker kits to attack iOS 7 weaknesses are available to less-skilled attackers.”

“Yesterday’s best defenses cannot fend off the attacks of today or tomorrow,” stated Federighi. He believes there’s no going back in the security game, which is more of “an endless race” against hackers than a constant proliferation of relevant safeguards.

Federighi’s op-ed prompted over 800 responses for and against his position.

“Arguing that only bad actors need worry about government intrusions is specious since the data analytics that sifts through metadata and associated content to establish networks of associations… is hardly foolproof,” wrote one user under the name Code Ferret.

Joan Ashley stated her worry that “The FBI could abuse the power obtained under a favorable court ruling.”

However, Rbobbin disagreed, stating that encryption is too sweeping.

Even among the security committee, opinions vary.

“Compelling Apple to build a backdoor for its own product actually undermines the security and personal safety of millions of Americans and others around the world, especially those living under authoritarian regimes,” stated staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Sophia Cope. She continues on to state that this occurs “by creating the legal precedent, by weakening the trust users have in software updates supposedly authorized by companies, and by building the technology itself.”

encrypt2Ebba Blitz, CEO of Alertsec, stated her opinion on the matter rather concisely: “Walking backwards into the future is never a clever way… It’s not only weakening encryption for individuals and companies; it’s also weakening encryption for the American government… by creating the possibility of brute force attacks, we are paving the way for anyone, including terrorists, to hack into our data easily.”

Blitz went on to consider the outcome that the law could potentially drive the U.S. tech industry overseas.

“Everything from health data to financial data to conversations with and about our kids is protected because of encryption,” stated Jake Ward, president and CEO of the Application Developers Alliance. “Why would we want to go back to iOS 7?”

He says that purposefully degrading encryption “just for the good guys” is not actually a possibility. “You can’t secure your home while leaving a window open for the police, hoping bad guys don’t find and use it.”