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28
May

Tencent wants to bolster China’s chip and semiconductor industry


In light of the recent sanctions against ZTE, Tencent has pledged to work to build China’s own chip and semi-conductor industry. Reuters reports that Tencent’s leadership called the recent actions against ZTE a “wake-up” call and said that Chinese firms should not have to rely solely upon foreign suppliers.

“The recent ZTE incident made everyone more clearly realize that however advanced one may be in mobile payment, without the mobile, the chips and the operating system, you still cannot compete,” said Tencent’s Pony Ma.

Tencent, a Chinese gaming and social media company, is one of Asia’s most valuable firms, and it operates the popular WeChat app. Tencent’s efforts could include using the data collected from WeChat to help Chinese chip makers come up with better chips or encourage WeChat app developers to use chips made in China when developing their software. Ma said that he would like for Tencent to get involved with making chips itself, but admitted that was a bit outside the company’s area of expertise.

“It would probably be better if we could get in to support semiconductor R&D, but that is perhaps admittedly not our strong suit and may need the help of others in the supply chain,” Ma said.

The U.S. is working with China and ZTE to resolve the issues involving the import ban, but Ma warned that Chinese companies should not ” not lose vigilance at this time and should pay more attention to fundamental scientific research.”

China’s rapidly grow tech sector is currently heavily reliant on imports when it comes to the production of things such as smartphones and computers. China’s domestic chip market is currently so underdeveloped that ZTE is in danger of going out of business if the U.S. does not lift the company’s import ban. The Chinese government is aware that the country is struggling in this area and has taken steps to help bolster its semiconductor industry. One of the more recent actions taken is to invite foreign investors to invest in the country’s state-backed chip fund. As of right now, however, the country is still heavily reliant on imports.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • New blow for ZTE and Huawei: Devices pulled from military base stores
  • The U.S. technology ban could cost ZTE more than $3 billion
  • Trump deal (and $1.3 billion fine) will let ZTE resume operations
  • In China, lowly vending machines are transforming into smart storefronts
  • International relations are tense in orbit. Is creating a ‘Space Force’ a good idea?


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28
May

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 review: Outclassing the master


ASUS has managed to outclass Xiaomi in the budget segment, and that’s no easy feat.

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ASUS enjoyed moderate success with earlier models in the ZenFone series in India, but subsequent launches haven’t fared so well. A lot had to do with the manufacturer’s lackadaisical attitude with updates, and that’s an area the brand is looking to fix with its latest device, the ZenFone Max Pro M1.

The M1 is an India-first device that’s designed to tackle the unique challenges in the country. ASUS mentioned that after listening to a lot of feedback from its community in India, it decided to go with a vanilla Android skin that’s devoid of any ZenUI customizations. Instead of partnering with Android One like HMD, however, ASUS is offering its own pure Android build, and the company is stating that it will deliver timely updates.

Then there’s the battery: the M1 comes with a massive 5000mAh battery, because a phone is still the primary gateway to the internet for a majority of Indians. So ASUS threw in a battery that’ll easily deliver two days’ worth of use.

The third aspect is performance — the M1 is only the second phone in India to feature the Snapdragon 636, and the chipset handles everything you throw at it with ease.

Combine all of the above and a price tag that starts off at just ₹10,999 ($160) and you begin to understand that the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is one of the best devices of the year. Here’s my take on the phone after a month of extensive usage.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 What you’ll love

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I’ll be frank: there isn’t much to get excited about when it comes to the design of the M1. It’s clear that ASUS wanted to get a phone out in the market as soon as possible, and that meant little to no design flourishes. You get an aluminum mid-frame and a metal alloy back, a dual camera that’s arrayed vertically, plastic inserts at the top and bottom that house the antenna bands, and a single speaker located at the bottom next to the Micro-USB charging port. Thankfully, the M1 retains the 3.5mm jack.

The power and volume buttons are on the right side of the device, and they offer decent tactile feedback. I haven’t faced any issues with calls or cellular connectivity during my usage, and it’s great that ASUS is giving a dedicated slot for a microSD card along with two SIM card slots.

As outlined earlier, there are three areas where the M1 wins out over other devices in this category: software, Snapdragon 636, and battery. Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 Pro has the same internal hardware, but even it doesn’t quite come close to the battery figures posted by the M1. I easily got two days’ worth of usage out of the 5000mAh battery with some room to spare.

The 18:9 panel on the device is one of the better ones I’ve used in this category, and I have had zero issues with the M1 on that front. The 5.99-inch FHD+ (2160 x 1080) panel has vibrant colors with excellent contrast levels, and it gets sufficiently bright that I didn’t have any problems viewing the screen under sunlight. There isn’t much in the way of customization if you want to adjust the display’s color temperature to your liking, though.

You can’t ask for much more from a budget phone.

The single speaker located at the bottom is average — it gets loud, but details are muddled when you muddy when you try to crank up the volume.

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is available in two variants: one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage that’s available for ₹10,999 ($160), and a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for ₹12,999 ($180). Both variants come with the Snapdragon 636, and as we’ve seen on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, it is the fastest chipset in this category.

The vanilla Android build is the icing on the cake, and is the M1’s differentiator. It would’ve been a masterstroke had ASUS launched the phone under the purview of the Android One program, but for now I’m willing to give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt.

The UI doesn’t have any added customization, and in general is a delight to use. There are a few third-party apps out of the box — Facebook, Instagram, and ASUS’ Go2Pay digital wallet service — but these can be uninstalled.

The M1 comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, and in the testing period it picked up several single updates, the last of which bumped the security patch level to April 2018. It looks like ASUS is committed to delivering timely updates, and I will cycle back to the device in a few months’ time to see if that’s still the case.

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As I mentioned previously, the camera on the M1 is pretty good for a device in this category. ASUS rolled out several updates over the course of the last few weeks to fix focusing issues with the camera, and while the sensor itself isn’t as good as the one on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, it is serviceable. Just know that list most budget cameras, it doesn’t fare all that well in low-light shooting scenarios.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 What you won’t

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There’s very little that the M1 gets wrong. One of the few drawbacks is the fickle fingerprint sensor, and although an update fixed some of its issues, it’s still slower than sensors on other budget phones I’ve used this year.

Then there’s the fact that the phone doesn’t have fast charging. It takes close to an agonizing three hours to charge the device fully, so you need to plug it in throughout the night. This isn’t particularly annoying considering how great the phone is when it comes to battery life, but ASUS should have included fast charging.

No fast charging means the M1 takes well over two hours to fully charge.

The one downside with Wi-Fi connectivity is that the M1 doesn’t pair with 5GHz networks. The maximum bandwidth I saw on the device was 60Mbps, and while it’s significantly less than what the likes of the OnePlus 6 managed, the M1 costs a third of the cost of OnePlus’ flagship. On Jio, I was got cellular data speeds of 6Mbps, but that’s more on the carrier than the phone.

Both SIM card slots work over 4G, and for those wondering, the phone does offer dual VoLTE. Owing to the segment the device is targeting, you get just five LTE bands (1/3/5/8/40), so that’s something to look out for if you want to use the M1 in any other market.

These are all minor quibbles, but the main drawback is the availability. The phone is limited to India for now, and ASUS is emulating Xiaomi’s strategy and offering a flash sales model, which means you won’t be able to buy the M1 whenever you want.

The phone is up for sale for a few seconds every Wednesday, and there’s no indication that ASUS will make the M1 available in an open sale anytime soon. It is possible that in the coming weeks and months we’ll see the phone show up on third-party retailers and make its way offline via grey market sellers at a premium — much like Xiaomi’s devices did last year — but for now ASUS doesn’t intend to sell the M1 offline.

That’s a shame, because the phone has what it takes to dethrone the Redmi Note 5 Pro and any other device in this category.

Should you buy it? If you can

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With the ZenFone Max Pro M1, ASUS has managed to offer a device with an 18:9 panel, Snapdragon 636, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, a decent camera, class-leading 5000mAh battery, and vanilla Android. The fact that the device retails for just ₹12,999 ($180) underscores ASUS’ intent to revitalize sales from India, because its hard to see the manufacturer making any money from sales of the M1.

If you want a budget phone with all the frills and none of the added bloat, the M1 should be at the top of your list.

The Good

  • Incredible performance
  • Vanilla Android
  • Unmatched value for money
  • Vibrant 18:9 display
  • Insane battery life

The Bad

  • Availability
  • Finicky fingerprint sensor

4.5
out of 5


The ZenFone Max Pro M1 absolutely nails the basics, and does so without compromising in any key areas. Honestly, there isn’t much more you can ask from a budget phone.

See at Flipkart

28
May

Robot submarine discovers the ‘holy grail’ — a shipwreck with billions in gold


A robot submarine operated by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) discovered the remains of the San José, a Spanish galleon that was sunk more than three hundred years ago. The REMUS 6000, an autonomous underwater vehicle, discovered the wreck in nearly 2,000 feet of water off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.

The location of the shipwreck had been an ongoing maritime mystery, speculated about by historians and searched for by treasure hunters for decades. The discovery was made in 2015, but the WHOI just recently received authorization to release the details about the discovery.

The 13-foot-long REMUS 6000 is designed for deep-water operations, with a maximum depth of 3.73 miles. The submarines can survey a large area using acoustic navigation, and high-resolution imaging systems on the bottom of the vessel can provide close-up details.

“The REMUS 6000 was the ideal tool for the job, since it’s capable of conducting long-duration missions over wide areas,” said expedition leader Mike Purcell.

The REMUS 6000 previously played a pivotal role in discovering the wreckage of Air France 447 in 2011, which crashed into the ocean and ended up on some of the most inaccessible seafloor on Earth. The submersible also participated in photographing the remains of the Titanic during a 2010 expedition.

The San José sank carrying a vast fortune in gold, silver, and emeralds, meant to fund the war effort led by France against England. The treasure is worth some $17 billion in today’s dollars.

Who owns the rights to the treasure has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute between the Colombian government and an American salvage company, hence the delay in announcing the details of the discovery. For their part, the Woods Hole team is not involved in that particular squabble — they say they’re explorers, not treasure hunters.

More than three hundred years ago, the massive three-masted galleon ruled the ocean, armed with 62 bronze cannons engraved with dolphins. A flagship of the Spanish fleet, the San José ferried treasure from the New World back to Europe. It was able to best any pirates or rival ships that encountered it … until June 8, 1708, during the War of Spanish Succession, where the badly leaking Spanish ship went cannon-to-cannon with the British ship Expedition.

“The Expedition’s 32-pound cannonballs blasted through the heavy timbers of the San Jose’s hull at a distance of about 100 feet,” said a court filing for the salvage dispute that included an account of the battle. “The gunpowder which had been moved up from its lower hold to escape the leakage had ignited. Its explosion drove the hull of the San Jose down into the sea with a force so great it created a shock wave — a wall of water so high it came in at the Expedition’s gun ports.”

Colombian president Juan Manual Santos says that the discovery shows that the vessel did not explode, contrary to historical records. 600 people lost their lives when the ship sank.

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28
May

Google awards teenager $36,000 as part of its bug bounty program


Google has awarded a Uruguayan teenager for reporting a vulnerability that would have allowed hackers to make changes to the company’s internal systems. This marks the fifth bug that Ezequiel Pereira has submitted to Google’s bug bounty program. It’s also the most valuable, earning him more than $36,000.

Pereira began got his first computer at age 10 and has been programming since he took an intro class at age 11. He has spent years teaching himself various programming languages and participated in several coding contests, including one that earned him a trip to Google’s headquarters in California.

His drive for bug hunting began when he was younger. He said that he quickly found a bug that earned him $500 and had been hooked ever since.

“I found something almost immediately that was worth $500 and it just felt so amazing,” he told CNBC. “So I decided to just keep trying ever since then.”

Pereira found the bug earlier this year and reported it to Google. He only recently received permission to discuss the bug and how he found it once Google confirmed that it had resolved the issue.

In June of last year, Pereira discovered a bug that earned him $10,000 and used part of that money to apply for scholarships to U.S. universities. None of the schools he reached out to accepted him, so he is currently studying computer engineering in his hometown of Montevideo. He is hopeful that he’ll be able to use his earnings to fund his education, as he hopes to one day earn a master’s degree in computer security. Apart from his education, he has no major plans for his earnings aside from helping his mother pay the bills.

As of right now, Pereira has only submitted bugs to Google’s bug bounty program, but many tech and video game companies offer similar rewards for discovering and reporting bugs. The companies are hopeful that offering monetary rewards will encourage hackers to report exploits rather than sell them to bad actors.

For his part, Pereira has encouraged his friends and others to get involved with bug hunting. When his friends say they don’t think they have the proper knowledge, Pereira replies that “anyone can learn these things.”

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • A library at your fingertips: The 100 best free Kindle books
  • Google Pixelbook review
  • Hackers can bypass the Windows 10 S lockdown due to security flaw


28
May

Electric cars can serve as mobile power storage, save billions on energy infrastruture


Despite recent revelations that car dealerships talk down on electric vehicles, clean cars still have plenty of pull for prospective buyers, not least of which is the sense of environmental responsibility that goes along with abandoning fossil fuels.

A new study out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California shows how EVs may also have an added benefit for society at large, bolstering the clean energy grid by providing mobile power storage.

“We have demonstrated the value of using EVs to support the electrical grid without compromising the mobility of EV owners,” Jonathan Coignard, a scientific engineering associate at the Berkeley Lab, told Digital Trends. “We imagine a world where EV owners earn money when they park their vehicle. The storage that EVs can provide would increase the ability of the grid to support local renewable energies, thus creating synergies between a clean electrical grid, energy independence, and clean vehicles.”

In the report, Coignard and his team evaluated the large-scale rollout of renewable sources across the energy grid, daily changes in demand, and how EVs could help mitigate the impact of daytime overproduction and evening energy surges by being charge in a controlled manner. That is, rather than charging in the evening, when demand is highest but supply is lowest, EVs could be charged at predetermined times and destinations throughout the day.

The team used California as a case study. The state has set ambitious clean energy goals, including 1.5 million zero emissions vehicles by 2025.

“In short, EVs tend to be charging after their daily home-to-work commutes, charging in the evening at home, and in the early morning at workplaces,” Coignard said. “Unfortunately, this doesn’t naturally coincide with solar generation in the afternoon. Since vehicles are parked in average 95 percent of the time, we have been looking at how much of their energy demand could be shifted in the afternoon to help the grid with the new challenges brought by solar plants.”

Their research showed that California’s storage mandate could be met with controlled charging procedures, using technology and infrastructure that’s already available today. If executed correctly, this could save states billions of dollars on installation of new stationary storage facilities.

The research was published this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Kia wants to solve one of the biggest problems with electric cars
  • World’s largest battery on a desert solar farm would triple Tesla’s record
  • Lithium metal batteries could triple EV ranges, and they’re getting closer


28
May

A miniature chemistry lab is headed to Mars to search for signs of life


The ExoMars Rover, scheduled to land on the red planet in two years, will contain a miniaturized chemistry lab onboard that can be used to search for signs of life. Not much bigger than a shoebox, the sophisticated Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) will contain a mass spectrometer that can detect and analyze organic molecules, such as amino acids, that could be the first evidence that life has existed on another planet.

The ExoMars Rover is a joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscomos. The first ExoMars mission ended in failure in 2016 when the Schiaparelli lander spiraled out of control and slammed into the surface.

The instruments on the new ExoMars Rover, such as the spectrometer, generally take up an entire bench in a typical chemistry lab here on Earth. Scientists had to shrink the components down for the mission.

Another issue the researchers had to grapple with was contamination. Organic molecules are abundant here on Earth, and the lab needed to be produced and constructed in a completely sterile environment to ensure that no terrestrial molecules make the journey and render the samples invalid.

Once on the surface, the rover has an autonomous system which allows it to navigate by itself rather than wait for instructions from Earth, which take 24 minutes to arrive. The rover will retrieve samples from beneath the surface of the planet, which will then be heated in a tiny oven or zapped with a laser before spectrograph analysis.

“That’s the most exciting thing that hasn’t been done before, we’ve got a huge two-meter drill so it can go into the crust which is where we think life would be if it was still surviving,” ExoMars Delivery Manager Abbie Hutty explained to Reuters. “At the surface the radiation is extreme and conditions too hostile. Down below different layers of rock, maybe in a fissure where there may be water deposits could be a nice place for life to still be surviving.”

The tiny lab just completed its pre-flight reviews and it’s on the way to Turin, Italy, where it will be integrated with the rest of the rover over the next two years. The new ExoMars lander mission is planned for launch in July 2020 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • NASA and ESA will team up to bring Martian soil samples back to Earth
  • Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier
  • NASA abruptly shuts down its planned 2022 moon rover mission
  • China is creating a ‘magpie bridge’ to the far side of the moon
  • ‘Mars, here I come!’ NASA’s InSight launches on a six-month journey


28
May

Big things do come in small packages. Here’s the tiniest tech in the world


We love it when tech goes small — not just “it fits in the palm of my hand!” small, but really tiny. We’re talking about computers that could blow away in the breeze, web servers the size of matchsticks, and smartphones that can fit on your keychain. And that’s just the beginning!

28
May

Here are Moto G6 tips and tricks to help you master your new phone


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This year’s Motorola lineup consists of three different Moto G series phones — the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play. While each smartphone brings its own unique qualities to the table, all three devices also share similar features. Regardless of which variation of the Moto G6 you have, we’ve got some handy tips and tricks for you.

How to use the fingerprint scanner to navigate

The fingerprint scanner on the Moto G6 sits on the front of the device at the bottom of the screen. While you can use it for security, you can also use it to navigate your device. To go home, tap the sensor quickly, to go back simply swipe from right to left on the sensor, to open recent apps swipe from left to right, and to lock the screen you have to touch and hold the sensor until you feel a short buzz. You can also launch assistant by touching and holding the sensor until you hear a long buzz. To access this feature, go to the Moto app, tap on Moto Actions and toggle on One button nav.

How to use Face Unlock

With the Moto G6 series, you can use Face Unlock to unlock your phone by looking at it. To set up the feature, go to Settings > Security & Location > Face Unlock. You have to make sure your screen lock setting is set up first which you can do by tapping on the Screen lock section. After that is complete, tap on Face Unlock to begin the process — simply align your face using the front-facing camera and wait for it to capture your facial features. This will automatically toggle on the Bypass lock screen setting which allows the phone to unlock when you press the power key once your face is matched.

But those using the Moto G6 Play are out of luck when it comes to Face Unlock. The feature is only available for the Moto G6 and Moto G6 Plus.

How to use Moto Key

With Moto Key, you can securely log into apps and websites with just your fingerprint — rather than having to type in your passwords each time. To access the Moto Key go to the Moto app and tap Moto Key. You have to set up your fingerprint first but afterward, you will be brought to a window that asks you to sign in to your Lenovo account as an extra form of security. You will then be able to choose from a variety of apps to assign your fingerprint to such as Facebook, Twitter, and more. You can also add Windows devices like a PC or tablet if it’s compatible.

How to shrink the screen

For one-handed use (which might be useful on the Moto G6 Plus given its size), you can shrink the screen. The option is located in the Moto app which you can find by going to Moto Actions > Swipe to shrink screen. After you toggle the feature on, simply swiping down to the left or right will shrink the screen to its respective corner allowing you to easily access different apps.

Moto Actions also provides you with a variety of different features to make using your phone easier all with simple gestures. When you go the Moto app, tap on Moto Actions and you’ll be brought to a list of different ones you can toggle on. There is Quick Screenshot — allowing you to touch and hold on the screen with three of your fingertips to capture it, along with Pick up to stop ringing which turns incoming calls to vibrate when you lift your device, among others.

How to customize your display

There are a variety of different ways you can customize the display on your Moto G6. To make changes to your display go to Settings > Display and you will be brought to a list of different options. You can toggle on adaptive brightness (to optimize the brightness level for available light), change the font and display size, and more. You can also choose how colors appear on the display in the Color Mode section — which allows you to adjust the color temperature between warm, neutral, and cool, as well as pick between standard and vibrant color to display your content in.

With Moto Display, which you can access by going to the Moto app, you can toggle on features like Night Display to reduce blue light exposure before you go to sleep and Attentive Display so that the screen stays on when you’re looking at it. There is also Moto Display which shows notifications that fade in and out while the screen is off — other settings under this feature include the ability to block notifications from specific apps, adjusting the level of detail to show when it comes to notifications. You can also toggle on Quick Reply which allows you to reply to texts without unlocking the device.

How to adjust the camera settings

With the Moto G6, there are a few ways to adjust your camera settings which you can access by opening the camera app, swiping to the left, and tapping on Settings located at the top of the screen. From there, you can choose to toggle on Quick Capture — which allows you to open or switch between cameras by twisting your wrist twice.

There is also Tap anywhere to capture, where you can take a photo by tapping anywhere on the screen within the camera app (for multiple shots, tap and hold). You can change the focus and exposure as well by dragging the bracket to set the focus and automatically adjust exposure.

How to use split screen

Baked into Android 8.0 Oreo, the split-screen feature on the Moto G6 allows you to have two apps open on the screen at once. Simply open an app and then press and hold either the recent apps or the multitasking button. The app that was already open will then only take up half the screen and the other app will be placed at the bottom of the screen. To exit split-screen mode, tap and hold the recent apps button again or drag the resize bar up or down.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Moto G6 vs. Moto G5: Is it time to crown a new budget king?
  • Moto E5 Plus and Moto E5 Play hands-on review
  • Moto G6 vs. Honor 7X: Which is the better budget phone?


28
May

Wireless mice, flash drives, and more are all on sale today


Whether you’re looking for new tech gear or household items, we’ve got you covered.

Today you can get big discounts on Memorial Day outdoor furniture, wireless mice, 128GB flash drives, and more!

View the rest of the deals

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you’ll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

28
May

A Swiss weedkiller robot could curb our dependence on herbicides


It takes a lot of work to keep produce aisles stocked in grocery stores — there’s the planting, tending, picking, and shipping. And even though most of these tasks rely on human labor, farms are becoming increasingly automated.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a Roomba-like robot that can tend to crops autonomously. At Carnegie Mellon, they’re building a suite of A.I. and drones to take on some of agriculture’s most demanding tasks. And just last year, a team of automated machines farmed an acre and a half of barley, from planting to harvesting, without a single human setting foot on the field.

A Swiss company called ecoRobotix recently unveiled its contribution to automated agriculture — a robotic weed-killing machine. The four-wheeled robot doesn’t look like much more than a mobile table top, but Reuters reports that the unassuming machine may reshape the way we approach agriculture.

Some $26 billion is spent on herbicides each year. These chemicals are often indiscriminately sprayed over entire fields of crops that have been genetically modified to resist the chemical onslaught. And it’s agrochemical giants like Bayer, DowDuPont, and Syngenta that usually create both the genetically modified seeds and the chemicals that are sprayed on them.

The ecoRobotix weeder could undercut the agrochemical complex by spraying herbicides more precisely. Powered by a series of solar panels, the robot coasts across the field, using GPS to navigate. A camera extends up from the robot like a long neck, using computer vision sensors to search the ground ahead and distinguish weeds from crops. On its underside, two spider-like arms spray microdoses of herbicide wherever necessary.

At under 300 pounds, the machine has a much smaller footprint than typical farm equipment. It can run autonomously for 12 hours and be also be configured and controlled manually via a smartphone. The company claims a team of its machines can use up to 20 times less herbicide than conventional spraying systems.

The swiss company isn’t alone in its precision spraying approach. A Silicon Valley startup called Blue River develops a device that use sensors to identify weeds and apply efficient amount of herbicides as it’s pulled behind a tractor. The green and yellow farm equipment giant John Deere acquired Blue River last year for $305 million.

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