GraphicsFuzz’s three-person team — Alastair Donaldson, Hugues Evrard and Paul Thomson — will join Google’s Android Graphics Team to “integrate their graphics driver testing technology within the Android ecosystem,” according to an announcement on the startup’s website.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the news, but declined to provide further information.
“The technology developed by GraphicsFuzz helps graphics technology vendors to build more reliable products, which is in high demand in today’s technology-driven world,” Lamia Baker, a senior licensing executive at Imperial Innovations, one of GraphicsFuzz’s development partners, said. “This acquisition is an endorsement of the company’s progress, as well as a unique opportunity for GraphicsFuzz to have a positive impact in one of the world’s leading mobile operating systems.”
We are excited to announce that GraphicsFuzz has been acquired by Google, and that we will be joining the Android Graphics team for lots more graphics fuzzing fun! Thank you to everyone who has supported us on our journey with GraphicsFuzz. https://t.co/HkvFFQ42C8
— GraphicsFuzz (@GraphicsFuzz) August 6, 2018
As GraphicsFuzz explains, its flagship product — ShaderTest GLES — uses shaders, or programs that run in the graphics pipeline and guide the rendering process, to detect bugs in drivers through a process it calls “metamorphic testing.” Its reference shaders produce an image, after which ShaderTest GLES applies semantics-preserving transformations to the source code and compares the output. If the two results don’t match, ShaderTest GLES’s “intelligent reducer” feature reverses the transformations to narrow down the bug’s cause.
It’s been used to uncover vulnerabilities in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S9. In the Galaxy S9’s case, GraphicsFuzz discovered an exploit in Qualcomm’s Adreno 630 graphics driver that let malicious WebGL webpages to trigger a reboot with Samsung’s stock internet browser.
GraphicsFuzz spun off from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, where Donaldson, Evrard, and Thomson pioneered the methods underlying ShaderTest GLES. They received support from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and academia-to-industry incubator Tetracom, and worked closely with Imperial Innovations, Imperial College’s commercialization partner.
Other funding partners included the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service, the ICURe Program, Innovate UK, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Google’s GraphicsFuzz deal comes four years on the heels of its acquisition of DrawElements, a Helsinki, Finland-based startup that produced a graphics test for Android devices. It’s the Mountain View company’s first explicitly Android-related acquisition since 2016, when it snapped up smartwatch OS startup Cronologics, Android emulator developer LeapDroid, and mobile tool maker LaunchKit.