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Robocrop, The First Raspberry-Picking Robot

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As the farming sector encounters increasing labor costs and shortage of seasonal workers, the future of fruit berry picking is saved by Robocrop, the world’s first raspberry-picking robot. It is nicknamed after Alex Murphy aka Robocrop by British journalists.

Robocrop is expected to be more efficient than its human counterparts;  15,000 berries can be pick by humans for a day (eight-hour shift). However, the robot built by Fieldwork Robotics can pick more than 25,000 raspberries a day. Also, robots don’t get tired and can pick berries for 20 hours daily.

How does it work?

The robot stands at the height of 1.8 meters.  It is equipped with machine learning and computer vision software to identify the ripe berries. Then, its grippers have advanced pressure sensors that generate the right amount of force to pick the berry without damaging it.

Currently, it takes an estimated time of one minute to harvest a berry. But according to its inventors, when operating at full capacity, the robot’s gripper can pick a raspberry in 10 seconds or less. Then, it drops it in a tray where the berry is sorted by maturity before it is delivered to the supermarkets.

UK farmers usually pay £1 to £2 for a kilogram of raspberries picked by human workers. Fieldwork plans to rent the robots to the farmers at a lower price, says Rui Andres, one of the main backers of Fieldwork.

Robocrop is the brainchild of Dr. Martin Stoelen, a robotics lecturer from Plymouth University’s School of Computing, Electronics, and Mathematics. He took inspiration from his grandparent’s farm in Norway. It took £700,000 to develop the robot. In the process, he created Fieldwork Robotics, a spinout from the University of Plymouth.

During the separate field trials done in China, the robot can pick tomatoes, and they tested if it can be used to harvest cauliflowers.

Fieldwork Robotics has officially signed an agreement to develop Robocrop with one of  UK’s most famous berry growers, Hall Hunter. Currently, the robot has completed the initial field trials at a Hall Hunter Farm in West Sussex.

The results from the trials are going to be used to revise and improve the robot before other field trials are executed for the next months.

Meanwhile, Robocrop’s final version is scheduled to be released in production in 2020. It will have four grippers that can pick berries all at the same time.

With the increasing minimum wage and decreasing number of seasonal workers from Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland (following UK’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016), the berry farmers showed their interest in the robot. The decreasing labor force mostly affects berry and apple farmers, and it is reported that farms poach workers from one another.

Last summer, it was reported that the fruit growers were 15 to 30 percent short of seasonal pickers. There were crop losses last year and the year before, said Nicholas Marston, the chairman of the British Summer Fruits (BSF) trade body.

Farms in the United Kingdom for apples, berries, and other crops require 70,000 seasonal workers per year. The berry industry currently hires 29,000 workers, but with the increasing demand for berries, BSF expects that it needs 2,000 extra pickers in 2020. This year, the National Farmers’ Union reported more than 6,000 vacant jobs on farms.

Aside from the United Kingdom, other European countries, the United States and China are also challenged in finding the sufficient number of workers to harvest their product — so harvesting robots can somehow help solve this problem.

Aside from raspberries, Dr. Stoelen is also leading a project to develop robots for harvesting cauliflowers (this is supported by Agri-Tech Cornwall) and tomatoes (this is in cooperation with Shanghai Jiao Tong University).

The team at Fieldwork Robotics decided to first start with raspberries since they are challenging to harvest, more delicate and easily damaged compared to other soft fruits.

If Robocrop’s first mission will be successful, it’s inventors plan to improve the technology so it can be used to harvest other berries, fruits, and vegetables shortly.

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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Cybersecurity

Luscious leaked database with supposedly anonymous user data

Recent data breach target is a popular hentai porn site.

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Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash
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More than 1.1 million users who expected anonymity from the popular hentai porn site, Luscious, have been victims of a data breach. The site unintentionally left a database unprotected that allowed anyone with access and potentially identify the members and users of the sites through their non-public email addresses.

Luscious is an adult site that caters mainly to a niche of people interested in hentai and manga pornography. The site focuses specifically on user-generated, mostly animated, pornographic content, and has become one of the most popular sites in the United States. According to the data from Alexa, the site ranks in the top 5,000 websites in the U.S.

A research team from vpnMentor, led by Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, discovered a data breach that compromises a supposedly anonymous data of users who has accounts in the Luscious site. Researchers claim that an unprotected database containing identifiable information of users have been available online for those who know how to look for one.

The unprotected database contained information that the site has promised not to disclose to anyone. What the researchers discovered appeared to be the site’s back-end database that includes more than 235,000 albums, 30,000 user blog posts, and 900 videos. Furthermore, the leaked database also contains details of the site’s 19.7 million photos.

The researchers revealed that each user in the site has had themselves a profile set up, which allow users to upload, share, comment on, and discuss content on Luscious. As a rule of thumb for pornographic websites and fora, all of these are understood to be hidden through usernames instead of the users’ sensitive credentials.

“The data breach our team discovered compromises this anonymity by potentially allowing hackers to access the personal details of users, including their personal email address. The highly sensitive and private nature of Luscious’ content makes users incredibly vulnerable to a range of attacks and exploitation by malicious hackers,” said the researchers from vpnMentor.

The database was first discovered last August 15 and was later on disclosed to the company on August 16. However, the database was only closed down today.

Researchers and even journalists was not able to get an immediate response from the site administrator, whose email came first in the list of the exposed emails.

“The data breach gave our team access to 1.195 million user accounts on Luscious. All of these were compromised, revealing personal details of users with potentially devastating consequences,” the researchers added.

The information that was contained in the leaked database includes their usernames and email addresses. The researchers highlighted that at least 20% of the users had used faux email addresses, which indicates that some of them have taken extra steps to keep their identities hidden.

Aside from email addresses and usernames, the database also contained data like user activity logs, or the record of their signup and their most recent login, country of residence/location, as well as gender.

Because of the leaked database, the porn site essentially gave people the chance to access user activities within the website. It allowed the researcher to complete an overview of user activities and view things like:

  • The number of image albums they had created
  • Video uploads 
  • Comments 
  • Blog posts
  • Favorites
  • Followers and accounts followed
  • Their User ID number – so we can know if they’re active or have been banned

The information disclosed in the database is enough for people to create an accurate approximation of how a user is using Luscious.

“While some of this information is visible to other users, much of it was hidden in the website’s database. All of this combined information creates valuable insights into how people use Luscious,” the researchers said.

The researchers were also able to gain access to the things users are posting, including blog posts and content published on Luscious. This included the author’s details, along with the number of likes, when published, category, etc. They said that some of these disclosed blog posts were “extremely personal” and are meant by the users to be kept anonymous.

The researchers warn that the data contained in the leaked database is enough for a threat actor to launch a cyber attack to an unsuspecting victim, including doxing, phishing, and extortion. They encourage users to change their Luscious login to contain the breach immediately.

“We suggest you immediately change your Luscious account details, including your username, and associated email address. For adult-themed websites, or any other websites of a sensitive nature, always create a username completely unrelated to your personal email address or any other online account,” they said.

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Apps

Wireless Networks are throttling video streaming 24/7

All because of competition, and not due to internet congestion.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
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U.S. wireless networks assert the need to throttle down internet speeds to avoid network congestion and make internet access well-distributed to all users. However, a recent study debunks this claims, saying that wireless carriers throttling internet speed is prevalent — and it’s not because of congestion.

Researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted more than 650,000 tests in the U.S. found out that internet service providers are throttling different services with a bias to other services — a violation of the basic tenet of net neutrality.

The researchers uncovered that from early 2018 to early 2019, AT&T Inc. throttled Netflix Inc. 70% of the time and Google’s YouTube service 74% of the time. Even if AT&T claims that this move is to make sure that there will be no network congestion, it appears that this claim is not the reason for throttling Netflix and Youtube, as researchers discovered that, at the same time, the wireless carrier did not touch the internet speed when people use the services of Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video at all.

Conversely, T-Mobile U.S. Inc. slowed down the internet speed for Amazon’s Prime Video at least 51% of the time without throttling Skype and Vimeo, the researchers said in a paper entitled “A Large-Scale Analysis of Deployed Traffic Differentiation Practices,” to be presented in an industry conference this month.

The researchers of the study, namely, Fangfan Li, Alan Mislove, and David Choffnes from Northeastern University, together with Arian Akhavan Niaki, and Phillipa Gill from University of Massachusetts Amherst, said that wireless companies are throttling internet speeds all the time, and the practice is very “pervasive.”

“They are doing it all the time, 24/7, and it’s not based on networks being overloaded,” said David Choffnes, associate professor at Northeastern University and one of the study’s authors.

The authors of the study denounce the claims made by wireless carriers that internet speed should be sacrificed to serve everyone. While it is true that slowing down internet speeds per user could ease congestion in the network, the researchers claimed that based on their results, carriers like Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T, and T-Mobile are doing it for a different reason.

Furthermore, the researchers raise how these practices violate the principle of net neutrality, where internet service providers should not discriminate based on user, app, or content — meaning, no matter what service a user is accessing on the internet, it should be treated equally, with similar internet speed allocation as other services.

“Net neutrality has been the subject of considerable public debate over the past decade. Despite the potential impact on content providers and users, there is currently a lack of tools or data for stakeholders to independently audit the net neutrality policies of network providers,” reads the study manuscript.

In the past, the FCC has attempted to safeguard net neutrality and has voted a regulation that would make sure that internet service providers will abide by the net neutrality principles. But, was later abolished by the Republican FCC after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

The study uncovered that wireless network providers are throttling internet speed with particular distinction in video streaming services. While different internet service providers throttle sites differently, there is a consensus that they are throttling, mostly video streaming services.

“We found that most throttling targets video streaming and that there is a wide range of throttling implementations detected in our dataset. In addition, we investigated the impact of throttling on video streaming resolution, finding that while throttling does limit video resolution, it is also the case that default settings in video streaming apps in some cases are the primary reason for low resolution,” the researchers said in the study.

But Choffnes said that these discrepancies they found could be a result of errors, as some carriers haven’t been able to detect and limit some video apps after they made technical tweaks.

“They may try to throttle all video to make things fair, but the internet providers can’t dictate how the content providers deliver their video,” Choffnes said. “Then you have certain content providers that get throttled and some that don’t,” he added.

Nonetheless, the researcher pointed out that net neutrality is an issue that should not be forgotten, and that is the reason why they are motivated to share their results publicly.

“‘It’s important to keep publishing the work,” Choffnes said. “It would be nice if this is not completely forgotten. At least when ‘there’s an appetite for legislation on this topic, we’ll have the data.”

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Gadgets

Apple iPhone 11 rumored to unveil on September 10

A13 chips?

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The announcement date for the iPhone 11 is said to be found on the beta version of its new operating system. This news follows Apple’s release of iOS 13’s beta version to developers last August 15.

Within the seventh beta version of iOS 13, there is an asset labeled “HoldForRelease” that suggests the latest iPhone models could be announced on September 10. The image found in the systems files indicating the said date was first spotted by iHelpBR.

In 2018, just before the official event date for the iPhone was revealed, a similar leak happened to Apple. The leak indicated that the launch of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR would fall on September 12. The prediction proved to be correct.

Apart from the announcement date, there have been rumors that the newest iPhone line would be released on September 20. The president of Japan’s Softbank Ken Miyauchi implied that the new iPhones would be unveiled during the Apple keynote event on September 10, and they will be released to the market ten days after.

In the past four years, Apple has scheduled the release event in September. The Cupertino-based tech giant has been holding its iPhone event either on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of the month.

It is unlikely that Apple would be hosting the said event on September 11. This makes September 10 as the most probable date. If the rumor proves to be accurate, pre-ordering would most likely start on September 13, and shipping would begin a week after.

While Apple’s announcement is only a few weeks away, there have been leaks and tips regarding the names of the latest iPhones. According to phone case company, ESR, the newest phones would be called iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

With the growing anticipation for the release of the 2019 Apple iPhone models, the question of what these smartphones can offer is brewing. Apple has recently experienced a 12% decrease in iPhone sales, and it has reported a dip in its quarterly profit as well.

Its rivals — Samsung, Google, and Huawei — recently released their latest smartphones, and they are priced cheaper compared to Apple’s recently released iPhones. With these issues at hand, Apple is expected to deliver a product that can attract new customers and keep its current users.

According to analysts, they don’t see major changes in the iPhone 11. The more extensive changes would be happening in 2020. This might include features like 5G support and 120Hz OLED Retina display.

One of the biggest changes being anticipated with the release of iPhone 11 is its camera set-up. In a Bloomberg report made in January 2019, it seems Apple would be giving at least one of the 2019 iPhone models three rear-facing lenses. This feature would allow the phone to take greater and better wide-angle shots.

The iPhone 11 is rumored to come in four different colors — gold, white, black, and dark green. There are also reports saying that Apple will be dropping the 3D Touch feature this year. Apple might be incorporating a new Haptic Touch technology dubbed as “leap haptics.”

If your other Apple device is running out of battery, the iPhone 11 might be able to give it some juice through its bilateral charging feature. Similar to Samsung’s Galaxy 10 phones, and their ability to power the Galaxy Watch Active and Galaxy Buds, you can use the iPhone 11 to charge the 2019 Apple AirPods or other iPhones.

There is a prediction going around that the 2019 iPhone models would include larger batteries. This means that there is a possibility that their battery life would be much better compared to the older iPhone models.

When it comes to the phone display, Apple is likely offering another LCD phone this year. In last year’s release, the iPhone XR had an LCD display while the iPhone XS and XS Max had high-resolution OLED displays.

With last year’s iPhone releases, the smartphones were equipped with the highly-powerful A12 Bionic chip. Rumors are saying that the iPhone 11 might be powered by a processor that’s quite similar to the one found in the iPad Pros called the A12X. Apple could also be using the new A13 chip.

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