Imperial launches GraphicsFuzz bug-hunter start-up

GraphicsFuzz was founded by Imperial researchers in the Multicore Programming Group at Imperial College London and is led by Alastair Donaldson, Hugues Evrard and Paul Thomson. The company pioneers automated reliability testing technology for graphics drivers. GraphicsFuzz is one of the first two companies launched under Imperial’s new Founders Choice programme, which gives Imperial academic founders more choice regarding their service package from Imperial Innovations, and resulting equity distribution.

Graphics driver bugs can adversely affect the development of graphics applications like smartphone apps, with the most serious bugs even leading to security risks like sensitive data leaks. For instance, a Google Chrome Bug Bounty was awarded for a security issue on the Samsung Galaxy S6, which allowed data to be stolen across web browser tabs, found with the GraphicsFuzz technology. More recently, GraphicsFuzz disclosed a security issue in the graphics driver of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9, where a valid Web page triggers a whole device reboot. Historically, the focus of graphics driver testing has been on performance and standards-compliance. Reliability issues are treated on a case-by-case basis as they are discovered by developers once the driver has been released to the market.

GraphicsFuzz aims to raise the quality of the graphics stack by pioneering an innovative automated testing technology based on metamorphic testing: it offers families of tests that should all lead to the same image being rendered, so that a different image indicates a bug in the graphics stack. Around that concept, GraphicsFuzz has developed a fully-fledged testing solution with two key features:

the automated generation of elaborate test families, and
an “Intelligent Reducer” to help narrow down the root cause of each bug.
It is common for driver developers to spend days identifying why a bug occurs before being able to fix it. The Intelligent Reducer can automatically reduce a test while making sure that it keeps on triggering a bug, to finally produce a much smaller test case that makes bug fixing easier and faster.

A licence of ShaderTest GLES, the first product from GraphicsFuzz, gives access to the whole testing solution plus 3000 tests for the OpenGL ES graphics standard, which is supported by Android and iOS devices. When applied to several flagship smartphones, ShaderTest GLES reveals numerous issues. Besides incorrect image renderings, the GraphicsFuzz technology also finds more severe issues like device crashes or reboots, and even security issues like data leaks.

Graphicsfuzz is initially focusing on licensing its ShaderTest GLES product to stakeholders in the graphics industry – graphics processor vendors and OEMs. Follow-up products will feature new tests to validate further parts of the graphics stack, and will also tackle new, trending graphics standard such as Vulkan and Metal.

For more information, see the GraphicsFuzz website which features an online demo of the technology:

Alessandro Garcia, Technology Licensing Executive at Imperial Innovations, said:

“It has been great to see the project develop from an initial ICURe start-up bootcamp through to successful spin-out formation. I’ve been impressed not only with the technology, but also with the team’s dynamism and creativity in their commercial strategy and marketing campaigns. I look forward to seeing GraphicsFuzz progress and make our devices more stable and secure.”

Hugues Evrard, GraphicsFuzz co-founder:

“After positive feedback following months of visits and discussions to understand how our technology can fit in the graphics industry, we created GraphicsFuzz. We are now looking forward to raising the quality of graphics drivers across the board, not only to ease the job of application developers and preserve the reputation of graphics driver vendors, but also to improve the reliability and security of devices that we all use.”

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