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Nanotechnology

The identification of vulnerabilities in virtual reality systems

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A group of computer scientists affiliated with the University of Chicago has identified a plausible weakness within virtual reality systems. According to the researchers, this flaw has the potential to let a hacker add an “inception layer” between a user’s virtual reality home screen and their virtual reality user or server. The research team has published a scholarly article detailing their methodology and outcomes on the arXiv preprint repository.

Virtual reality (VR) systems enable users to engage in interactive experiences within a simulated environment, wherein a wide range of conceivable scenarios can be simulated. In this novel endeavor, the research team envisioned a hypothetical situation wherein hackers may implant an application onto a user’s virtual reality (VR) headset, thereby deceiving users into engaging in actions that could potentially expose confidential data to the hackers.

The underlying concept of the application is to introduce an additional dimension that separates the user from the virtual environment often encountered through their virtual reality (VR) gear. It is known as an “inception layer,” after the movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character who experiences the downloading of a modified layer of reality into his brain.

According to the researchers, this layer has the potential to enable hackers to capture data, such as a passcode inputted into a virtual ATM. Additionally, it has the capability to intercept and modify data, such as monetary sums allocated for a transaction, and redirect the disparity to the hacker’s financial account.

It has the potential to incorporate visual elements into the virtual reality environment, such as characters embodying acquaintances or relatives, and employ this deception to establish confidence or obtain privileges. Essentially, it has the capability to observe or modify gestures, vocal emissions, internet surfing behavior, and social or professional engagements.

According to the research team, it is possible for a user to download such an application onto their virtual reality (VR) device in the event that they successfully breach their WiFi network or obtain physical entry. Once implemented, it has the capability to operate autonomously without user intervention. The researchers recruited 28 participants to play a game using a demonstration virtual reality headset in order to examine the aforementioned hypothesis.

The researchers proceeded to download an application onto the devices, imitating a hacking incident. Subsequently, the volunteers were queried regarding any observations they may have made, as the download and activation procedures resulted in a slight flashing sound. Merely 10 volunteers observed, and just one of them raised doubts regarding the presence of any malicious activity.

The research team informed Meta, the manufacturer of the Meta Quest virtual reality (VR) system utilized in the experiment, of their findings. In response, Meta expressed their intention to investigate the potential vulnerability and rectify it if it is verified. Additionally, the researchers acknowledge that these vulnerabilities are likely to be present in other systems and applications that similarly aim to establish a connection between users and their virtual reality gadgets.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Engineering

Exploring the Depths: The Quest for Dark Matter Beneath the Earth’s Surface

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Based on observations made by astronomers studying the observable universe, it has been determined that approximately 5 percent of the universe consists of matter. The remaining portion, or the vast majority of it, consists of dark matter (approximately 27 percent) and dark energy (approximately 68 percent).

Dark matter is a type of matter that cannot be detected through its own light emission. It only interacts with regular matter through the force of gravity. This interaction can be observed in galaxies and galaxy clusters, providing evidence for its existence. However, considering the abundance of this mysterious substance compared to regular matter, it is only natural for scientists to actively search for concrete proof of its presence.

One way to locate it, which may seem surprising since dark matter accounts for what we observe in the stars and galaxies, is to go underground.

Scientists around the world conduct research in various underground facilities to study phenomena like weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) and the impact of neutrinos. It is believed that the WIMPs are constantly passing through the Earth as it moves through space. To detect them, we require highly sensitive detectors capable of capturing these subtle interactions.

“In the Stanford LUX-ZEPLIN experiment, an electric field is applied across the volume of liquid, causing the released electrons to be pushed towards the liquid’s surface,” explained Hugh Lippincott, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in an article for The Conversation.

When they break through the surface, an additional electric field propels them into the xenon-filled space above the liquid, where they produce a second burst of light. Two extensive arrays of light sensors capture the two bursts of light, enabling researchers to reconstruct the precise location, energy, and nature of the interaction that occurred.

They are very good scanners, and even if they don’t find dark matter, they can help narrow down what it isn’t. It’s just that putting them on the surface would make them pick up way too much noise.

“On Earth, however, we are constantly surrounded by low, nondangerous levels of radioactivity coming from trace elements—mainly uranium and thorium—in the environment, as well as cosmic rays from space,” Lippincott said. “The goal in hunting for dark matter is to build as sensitive a detector as possible, so it can see the dark matter, and to put it in as quiet a place as possible, so the dark matter signal can be seen over the background radioactivity.”

They are put deep below the ground so they can find dark matter. SNOLAB is the world’s deepest and cleanest lab. Every day, scientists have to go 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) underground and then walk further inside a working mine to get there.

The LUX-ZEPLIN project, which is deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has been recording about five events a day. This is a lot less than the trillion events it would pick up at the surface. Scientists have ruled out dark matter as a possible cause for all of them, though. But as long as the tests keep going, there is still hope that they will find proof of all the lost stuff in the universe deep underground.

 

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Artificial Intelligence

Google has initiated a $5 million global competition to discover practical applications for quantum computers

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Google has initiated an international competition in collaboration with XPRIZE and the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) to utilize quantum computing for practical problems.

Quantum computers utilize the principles of quantum physics to solve highly complicated problems beyond the capabilities of regular computers, including supercomputers. It is hoped that as science advances, these computers will be capable of doing intricate calculations, particularly in drug discovery or molecular behavior modeling.

A traditional supercomputer may attempt to replicate molecular behavior through brute force and use its numerous processors to investigate all potential behaviors of each portion of the molecule. However, when it progresses beyond the most basic and uncomplicated molecules, the supercomputer encounters a halt. IBM states that no computer has the capacity to process all potential variations of molecular behavior using current methods due to limitations in working memory.

Quantum algorithms approach complicated issues by generating multidimensional computational environments. This method proves to be a significantly more effective approach for solving intricate issues, such as chemical simulations.

The field is exhilarating. There are sporadic reports of significant developments or accomplishments in quantum computing, along with fervent predictions of how it might revolutionize the world. Quantum computers are not very practical or beneficial, despite the attention they receive. Companies are currently developing the initial quantum computer operating system.

Google stated in a press release that despite reasons for optimism regarding quantum computing, there is still uncertainty about the extent to which, the timing, and the specific real-world problems for which this technology will be most revolutionary.

“We aim to illuminate these questions by encouraging the community to further develop and predict the beneficial effects of quantum computing on society through the introduction of this prize.”

The competition will last for three years and requires participants to create applications for quantum computing that have societal benefits. During the initial round, participants must articulate the issue they aim to address and present an evaluation of the time required for a quantum computer to execute their method to solve it.

Up to 20 teams will progress to the finals from the group of competitors and collectively get the initial $1 million of the total prize. In the upcoming round, they will need to demonstrate how they can achieve a quicker or more precise solution on a quantum computer compared to conventional computers. They must also explain how these calculations would benefit society. The top three candidates or teams will receive $3 million, and the runners-up will receive $1 million.

Additional information is available on the Xprize website.

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Bionics

Redwire Space produces human knee cartilage in space for the first time

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Redwire Space has “bioprinted” a human knee meniscus on the International Space Station, which could treat Earthlings with meniscus issues.

The meniscus cartilage was manufactured on Redwire’s ISS BioFabrication Facility (BFF). The BFF printed the meniscus using living human cells and transmitted it to Redwire’s Advanced Space Experiment Processor for a 14-day enculturation process for BFF-Meniscus-2.

SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission returned the tissue to Earth after culturing. UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi and NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Warren Hoburg, and Stephen Bowen investigated.

Redwire collaborated with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Center for Biotechnology, which studies warfighter remedies, for the trial. Meniscus injuries are the most prevalent orthopedic injuries in U.S. service members.

In recent months, Redwire Space has advanced biotechnology. The subsidiary of Redwire Corporation launched a 30,000-square-foot biotech and microgravity research park in Indiana this summer.

Redwire EVP John Vellinger called the printing “groundbreaking milestone.”

He stated, “Demonstrating the ability to print complex tissue such as this meniscus is a major leap forward toward the development of a repeatable microgravity manufacturing process for reliable bioprinting at scale.”

The company has long-term bioprinting and space microgravity research goals. Redwire will fly microgravity pharmaceutical drug development and cardiac tissue bioprinting payloads on a November SpaceX Commercial Resupply trip to the ISS.

Sierra Space agreed to integrate Redwire’s biotech and in-space manufacturing technology into its Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) space station module. Orbital Reef, a private space station designed by Blue Origin, Boeing, and others, will include LIFE.

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