Hi all! Summer is nearing. And we are in a new peak event season, pre-summer is popular more than ever. The share of event-wallet is challenging next to a kind of unwary after two years of online gatherings. We experienced at ThingsCon last week how nice it is to be together in sessions sharing experiences and especially meeting each other in between. So we hope to be able to get back to the routine again with more events. The smaller size makes it even better, cozier, and more intense.
Speaking on ThingsCon, as I was going around dealing with production matters I could not experience the sessions myself. The wrap-up at the end showed however the learnings. We hope we can publish some impressions later. In a lot of sessions the relation between human and tech, from conversations with robots to concepts of trust, on an interaction level or philosophical, was covered. Justyna Zubrycka addressed a nice question to start with “How do we move about between the virtual and real-world so that our human experience is enriched instead of diminished?” She made references to the Japanese art of Mitate “the perception of an object in a non-habitual way, to contemplate an object as if it were something else in order to renew its meaning and experience”. Kris Vanherle showed with their Telraam open sensor solution how AI and sensing become part of the toolkit of a designer and maker of the currently connected devices, and what practical consequences it has.
At the exhibition, the animistic prototypes, AI mirror art installation and unintended consequences of smart objects, also illustrated a current phase in our relationship with intelligent technology that rules the physicality of things and vice versa; building on the ethical discussions we started in the earlier editions.
This week I will attend some of The Next Web for old times’ sake. I have been visiting TNW since the second edition I think but skipped last year for the first time. The nature has changed a bit after it was sold to FT I think, but I am curious to find out if there is still a good social vibe, something that TNW for me always was known for; running into a lot of people from the digital community. We have good weather, that will help. INFO will do a session on digital twin with one of our clients Growy on Friday (14:40 at Growth quarters if you are there), with service designer Anandita presenting; looking forward to seeing that.
I do not see other events. CogX is happening in London if you are into that, Amsterdam Digital Society School has its yearly showcase on Wednesday.
Dear subscribers. A day later; due to busi-ness and the day off for Whit Monday) we had yesterday. It might be the last week that I mention ThingsCon as the conference will take place this Friday. Maybe not the last week, I might report next week on the experiences.
Hi all! Weeks are passing by like days… The experience of organizing a conference like ThingsCon is always a similar process. You run always into a lot more work in the end. You tend to forget to amount of work as soon as the event is over and you got all the energy out of it. This rush started this year a bit earlier as we have that special Summer Edition planned as an event on 10 June. So check it out and join us. Read this newsletter with the latest news and special deals.
What else happened last week?
I went to a symposium (part of it) about usage-driven personal mobility services at TU Delft. Always insightful to see some of the research work done. It triggered some questions on the premisses of MaaS (Mobility as a Service) apps, which are designed with the idea that the problem to solve of planning of door to door routes is mostly about the uniformity of the app, having one app for all, with one ticket etc. The use of the current apps is very low as it is not solving real problems yet… Interesting insights are however that there is a chance that the last mile electric vehicles are replacing the wrong modes of transportation; walking and biking instead of car use.
I also had a session with the CMD Advisory board of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Which was a nice and open discussion on learning goals and more. Keep your eye on their Golden Dots party this year which celebrates 20 years of CMD.
A podcast tip; Kevin Roose is a NYT journalist that has written a good book –Futureproof– on our relation to AI developments. I read it before, it is quite compact. In the podcast he had a nice conversation with Scott Galloway discussing his framing: we need technology that makes us more human. I really feel for his analysis that replacing human activities with AI and robotics will happen fast then we think as the tipping point is not one way the robots become humanlike, but we also grow into habits to adapt to machine learning behavior closing the gap. We should focus on what makes us different, and build valuable relations in that with tech.
What if the internet is generated 99% by AI tools? How are we going to find the human content?
And next Monday the WWDC will inspire speculations for the next features and devices of Apple. Will RealityOS be introduced?
And looking for updates on the Dutch media and metaverse, check next Tuesday’s Cross Media Cafe (Dutch).
And now for the news of last week
The weekly dose of robotics, autonomous systems, and critical tech reflections.
Dyson has been secretly building robots HOMEBOTICS – Silently more and more options arrive to the market for the companion robots, the cobots. “Today at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia, Dyson revealed “secret robot prototypes” that are part of broader research.”techcrunch.com • Share
NY State is giving out hundreds of robots as companions for the elderly – The Verge ROBOTICS – “Deploying robots for elderly care is often controversial. Advocates say robots are a necessary tool, especially when humans aren’t available. Critics warn machines have the potential to dehumanize their users, and their deployment reflects the low value society places on older adults.”In the end, it is about intentions. I tend to be critical as soon as the robots try to be human instead of trying to be what they are: robot companions.www.theverge.com • Share
Researchers develop algorithm to divvy up tasks for human-robot teams ROBOTICS – teams are the future! “Researchers have developed an algorithmic planner that helps delegate tasks to humans and robots. The planner, ‘Act, Delegate or Learn’ (ADL), considers a list of tasks and decides how best to assign them. The researchers asked three questions: When should a robot act to complete a task? When should a task be delegated to a human? And when should a robot learn a new task?”www.sciencedaily.com • Share
The first wave of urban robots is here ROBOTICS – “The robot takeover is here – and it’s kinda cute.” This latter statement is interesting. The autonomous delivery cart is conceptual quite identical to manufacturers, and the difference would be in the digital service mainly. Is the appearance part of that or another layer/lens?www.freethink.com • Share
Surrender and Assimilation INTELLIGENCE – The pieces by Vankatesh are extensive and intelligent, super interesting to dive into. Hard to follow the production.. I need still to dive deeper into the graph mind series, this new addition has again an intriguing proposition: “The very first time I sat down to brainstorm graph minds, within minutes, it struck me that a key feature, perhaps the key feature, is that a collective intelligence, like a cult, is something you surrender to.”studio.ribbonfarm.com • Share
New countermeasure against unwanted wireless surveillance SECURITY – Countering security issues with spying on wifi through a physical barrier instead of trusting software-based encryption… Interesting choice.“To counter this method known as “adversarial wireless sensing”, the team investigated the use of Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces (IRS). IRS are considered a forward-looking technology for establishing intelligent wireless environments: here, many reflective elements are distributed over a surface and their reflective behavior can be individually and electronically adjusted.”news.rub.de • Share
Everyday Experiments HACKING – I like the work of oio.studio as rethinkers of design for an AI world. Hacking IKEA as a concept is not new and is an inspiration for a long time; we did some thoughts in the lab back in 2013 on social media-related platforms and -uhum- Google Glass. This Updatables project is ticking a lot of boxes on reconnecting to the furniture for life. “How will tomorrow’s technologies redefine the way we live at home?”everydayexperiments.com • Share
Sometimes a title for a paper can be as long as the summary: A Psychological Ownership Based Design Tool to Close the Resource Loop in Product Service Systems: A Bike Sharing Case
Not really of course; check the abstract. In the research “the central question was whether and how designers can be supported with a design tool, based on psychological ownership, to involve users in closing the loop activities. We developed a PSS design tool based on psychological ownership literature and implemented it in a range of design iterations. This resulted in ten design proposals and two implemented design interventions.”
“Our evaluation resulted in suggestions for revising the psychological ownership design tool, including adding ‘Giving Feedback’ to the list of affordances, prioritizing ‘Enabling’ and ‘Simplification’ over others and recognize a reciprocal relationship between service provider and service user when closing the loop activities.”
I spoke to the author some time ago on the broader research, and I am curious to read what the findings are for this part…
Ploos van Amstel D, Kuijer L, van der Lugt R, Eggen B. A Psychological Ownership Based Design Tool to Close the Resource Loop in Product Service Systems: A Bike Sharing Case. Sustainability . 2022; 14(10):6207. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14106207*
Hi all. Last week of May. It seems that every organizer of events that normally take place in wintertime has moved their events to this period. Just like we did with ThingsCon; you know it when lot of the supporting functions are already booked. It makes the organizing a bit busier.
Speaking of which; the ThingsCon program starts to round up. We need some final sessions to confirm and it looks very nice I think. If you missed it, check it out!
Last week was dedicated to the Munich workshop as described in last week’s newsletter. We had some tours in the city on Tuesday to check two potential neighborhoods for the Collect|Connect Community Hub we are developing as field lab project. The Kreativ Quartier is an old industry place with lots of creative companies, maker spaces, theaters etc. It will also have dwellings in the future so it is maybe more for later a place for the hub we foresee, but it is a nice place to visit when in Munich. Same goes definitely for the area ‘behind’ Ostbahnhof. Back in 2004 when I visited Munich for the first time it was still a abandoned industry area turned into nightlife, now it becomes a typical creative place with offices and new dwellings mixed together. They left some of the old factories in that mix which gives it good vibes. A new building like this one by MVDRV that won some prizes makes it also worthwhile to check out.
For our community hub we will look in some adjacent living areas like Obergiesing or Haidhausen; thanks to our guide from the municipality of Munich we got a good feel for the places. I am looking forward to being back a next time! I might reconsider the train as a travel option; I have had huge delays on every trip I had in the last year (3 times). On the other hand, avoiding flying is a good habit of course.
I also visited a symposium on a new European research program that is set up on Inclusive Smart Mobility Hubs. Definite something to keep following; curious to see how it will develop further. It still needs some clear definitions for what hubs are but it looks like a nice consortium. The first research results on smart mobility typologies can be found here, including an open data platform they introduced to collect insights into all kinds of hubs.
We also visited some galleries and events of Rotterdam Art Week. We skipped the main event just like last year, and it is not easy to find out all of the side programs, but as a tip for next year: The New Current was again a collection of very nice work. My favorites this year were Tina Farifteh, Carl Rethman, and the work of Nath, Smink & Acket.
Events for the coming week
As mentioned, I will visit Micromobility next week. I bought my tickets for the special early bird price luckily as they are raised substantially after…
Barcelona bets on ‘digital twin’ as future of city planning – POLITICO CITIES – “In five years’ time, the structure of Europe’s cities won’t be decided in local town halls but inside a quiet 19th-century chapel in a leafy neighborhood of Barcelona. Housed in the deconsecrated Torre Girona chapel, the MareNostrum supercomputer — one of the world’s most powerful data processors — is already busily analyzing how to improve city planning in Barcelona.”www.politico.eu • Share
The AI and the Tree | booktwo.org INTELLIGENCE – More Bridle, this time a blog by himself. “What we need are intelligences that help us do useful things in new and better ways, ways which we could not have imagined alone. AIs which are colleagues and collaborators, rather than slaves and masters.”booktwo.org • Share
Ways of Being – The Low Carbon Design Institute NONHUMAN – Conversation with two bright minds; Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is interviewing James Bridle. “For artists who are engaged with the world – which is not a requirement of art, but an interesting way to go about it – I think there is a responsibility to address the many problems we face, and artists have many ways of doing this.”lowcarbondesigninstitute.org • Share
Using everyday WiFi to help robots see and navigate better indoors ROBOTICS – I like these kind of different use of mundane technology to unlock new functions. “UC San Diego engineers have developed a low cost, low power technology to help robots accurately map their way indoors, even in poor lighting and without recognizable landmarks or features. The technology uses WiFi signals, instead of light, to help the robot “see” where it’s going.“jacobsschool.ucsd.edu • Share
🔮 Superminds bridging the innovation chasm #373 INTELLIGENCE – Better than focusing on AI leaping over humans, it is interesting to take a centaur-route: “I describe future superminds as the result of the interplay of networks of people and intelligent machines, thus generating emergent, superior (and possibly exponential) cognitive properties.”www.exponentialview.co • Share
I need to mention the new paper for the Aitech research group:
“The concept of meaningful human control has been proposed to address responsibility gaps and mitigate them by establishing conditions that enable a proper attribution of responsibility for humans; however, clear requirements for researchers, designers, and engineers are yet inexistent, making the development of AI-based systems that remain under meaningful human control challenging.”
“Meaningful human control: actionable properties for AI system development”
Cavalcante Siebert, L., Lupetti, M. L., Aizenberg, E., Beckers, N., Zgonnikov, A., Veluwenkamp, H., … & Lagendijk, R. L. (2022). Meaningful human control: actionable properties for AI system development. AI and Ethics, 1-15.
Hi all. This is another different edition of the newsletter. Monday we had the workshop at Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW) for the Cities of Things field lab in planning, connected to the Creative Embassy activities. With about 30 people we explored the potential locations and positioning of a field lab Cities of Things in Munich.
Preparing for this workshop took some time last week. Making the presentation, promoting, follow-up RSVPs, etc. Next to the workshop we visit some other sessions, do tours through two potential interesting neighborhoods for the ‘Reallabor’, a tour of the Design faculty of the Hochschule Munchen, and a session on smart fashion. On Wednesday I will take the train back, using that as a different type of working environment. Hopefully with fewer delays than on the way in…
ThingsCon is approaching fast too. We have been brainstorming on the latest program additions and added more sessions. Descriptions of earlier sessions are up. Tomorrow some more are added. Check the website.
As mentioned I am in Munich for MCBW. I will miss however the live panel of Troy Nachtigall and others with some interesting explorations later this week on “Data enabled short range mobility DESRM” On Saturday the panel can be followed via a livestream.
Today and tomorrow you can visit the conference Public Spaces with an extensive program around this theme. Check it out.
Quantum Computing without the Hype QUANTUM – “So what can quantum computers do now that’s interesting? First, they are excellent tools for simulating quantum behavior: the behavior of subatomic particles and atoms that make up everything from semiconductors to bridges to proteins.”www.oreilly.com • Share
10 Things – Dispatches from the Future DESIGN – “Periodic interesting things gathered – to accelerate (or disrupt) social working thinking, exploring and practice with a futures/foresight lens. 10 things seems like a good amount of things…and about as much as any of us can handle at one time. (I’ve been away from doing this for awhile…but you can see previous posts of this…”socialworkfutures.com • Share
Designers, (Re)define Success First ETHICS – “About two and a half years ago, I introduced the idea of daily ethical design. It was born out of my frustration with the many obstacles to achieving design that’s usable and equitable; protects people’s privacy, agency, and focus; benefits society; and restores nature. I argued that we need to overcome the inconveniences that prevent us from acting ethically and that we need to elevate design ethics to a more practical level by structurally integrating it into our daily work, processes, and tools.”alistapart.com • Share
#182: New Noise CITIES – “There is a set of words—gentrification, hipster, neoliberalism, capitalism—that feel surprisingly difficult to use in most contexts now, provoking a variety of unpleasant responses, ranging from annoyance to outright dismissal of whatever statement encompasses the word. ”kneelingbus.substack.com • Share
Google announces the Pixel Watch at I/O WEARABLES – “After false starts, rumors, and leaked photos, Google officially announced the Pixel Watch — its first smartwatch — is arriving alongside the Pixel 7 later this fall. On top of a new Wear OS UI, the watch will also debut a new Fitbit integration.”www.theverge.com • Share
Hi all. I hope you had a good week. My week was all about preparing and proposing and some student coaching. In short.
And ThingsCon Summer Edition is now in less than five weeks, so this is one of the moments in the organizing process it starts to accelerate a bit. Completing the program, discussing with speakers and hosts, finding nice projects to show at the exhibition, building the website etc., don’t forget to check the schedule. The early bird offer ended last week, but I made a discount code for 25%, especially for newsletter subscribers here. This offers ends this Sunday, 15 May. Registration via the website and use the code TC22-25procent
Designing user interfaces with bots not buttons INTERPLAY – Great thinking and exploring thoughts as Matt is doing so well.In this article he explores what the role of NPCs (non-player characters) can be, not only in VR like environments but in all software.Referencing a concept of Gordon Brander; geists:“They’re just little scripts that find connections between notes, and use procedural generators to construct algorithmic provocations.”And referencing a book by Brenda Laurel on the role of agents in our interactions.And I feel for his prediction a lot: “as users become accustomed to agents and NPCs, we’ll see more interfaces on desktops and phones that behave like Subconscious: bot not buttons”interconnected.org • Share
Prepare for smart robot revolution ROBOTICS – These kind of statistics are always more a trend than a guaranteed reality, but it seems our life will change…. “The analyst firm forecast that by 2030, 80% of humans will engage with smart robots on a daily basis, due to smart robot advancements in intelligence, social interactions and human augmentation capabilities, a figure up from less than 10% today.”www.computerweekly.com • Share
A visit to the human factory ROBOTICS – The continuing quest for shaping humans for real… “Engineered Arts in the UK is a small company, but it makes the world’s uncanniest robots: machines with realistic facial expressions that make you wonder what it means it be human. Its latest model, Ameca, provokes fear and excitement in equal measure, but why build robots that ape humans in the first place?”www.theverge.com • Share
FTX’s Steph Curry Ad Is the First Honest Celebrity Crypto Commercial CRYPTO – Politics blurring lines. “The sector’s rise has minted a generation of overnight millionaires and billionaires, some of whom have political ambitions. As the Washington Post recently reported, crypto investors and executives are pouring millions of dollars into the upcoming midterm elections, seeking to help elect candidates who will support the industry’s preferred regulations.”www.wired.com • Share
Radar trends to watch: May 2022 INTELLIGENCE – as always fine overview of trends of past month by O’Reilly. With a different meaning of FOMO (Faster Objects, More Objects), and other intriguing abbreviations like LAION (Large Scale Artificial Intelligence Open Network), STEGO etc. www.oreilly.com • Share
Paper for this week
One of the sessions at ThingsCon will dive into “Animistic Design”. Looking into possible speakers this paper was suggested: Robotic Improvisers: Rule-Based Improvisation and Emergent Behaviour in HRI
A super interesting topic again. “A key challenge in human-robot interaction (HRI) design is to create and sustain engaging social interactions. This paper argues that improvisational techniques from the performing arts can address this challenge. Contrary to the ways in which improvisation is generally used in social robotics, we propose an understanding of improvisational techniques as based on rules that shape motion choices.”
Alcubilla Troughton, I., Baraka, K., Hindriks, K., & Bleeker, M. (2022, March). Robotic Improvisers: Rule-Based Improvisation and Emergent Behaviour in HRI. In Proceedings of the 2022 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (pp. 561-569).
Hi all! Thanks for reading. Last week I had a short time to dive into events and reads and did a high-level overview. This week it is back to the usual routine.
So last week I discussed LaaS concepts and several forms of AI and ways to move into the next era of digital reality; the era of protocols. It can be the focus I have myself or it is really starting to become more of a thing indeed. It slowly is getting out of the realm of investment strategies and becomes a real structural part of developing new services.
At the same time, I started reading the new book of Bridle (finally), on new ways of being, new types of intelligence. His starting premise is that as we are now decoupling intelligence from humans with AI there should be an opening for other forms of nonhuman intelligence. Just started but already interesting. I watched this interview with James that dived further into it.
I also finally visited the exhibition Private_Eye_Butler_Spy. It is a nice overview of the impact of digital tech.
Hi all! Happy Kingsday. In case you celebrate this tomorrow located in the Netherlands, it is the first full-fletched Kingsday. Last year we had a kind of evening lockdown as I remember well. So I am curious about what it will be like this year. We ‘practiced’ partying last weekend in the first clubbing night in years. Felt strange but soon normal again.
At the time of writing, I am in a conference place in Brabant to discuss some possible future plans and collaborations in a short design sprint. I am part of the preparing team and moderating what results in this somewhat shorter newsletter.
Last week was a short week with easter et al. With a scattered program of activities. With Kars and others, I discussed the current state of responsible tech developments (looking back and forward at Techsolidarity). It was nice to see the 50% presentation of the Technical Informatics students of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. They are developing the wizard-of-oz platform for citythings further with ‘viewing capabilities’. Demie completed the after movie of the hackathon with the same explorations in citythings. Activities are very well connected there now, and will be even more it seems (later more).
Hello all. I hope you had a pleasant Easter time. Here we had an extra day off on Monday dedicated to Easter brunches and enjoying a warm spring day. Biking around Amsterdam Noord, to experience the new developments of Buiksloterham and around, that I can see from home on the other side of the river IJ. It is changing fast. It left a bit less time than usual to go through the captured news items…
Last week was quite a regular mix of planning and updating on the field labs, and sitting with students to check their progress. Like the technical informatics student team (University from Applied Sciences Amsterdam) working on a project to dive into interactions with vocal things based on applied AI. Work on the organizing for ThingsCon too.
Hello all. Thanks for reading. We are looking back on another impactful week, especially with all the global developments. One of the important things is not to normalize the war. Just because of the horrible consequences every day, but also because it is impacting our current and future lives. In the monthly update newsletter, I wrote for Cities of Things I relate the developments to the direct consequences for the balance of agency between humans and tech.
The presentation by James Bridle at Strp Festival was a very relevant project in this context. It was great as ever. The artifacts in the gallery were a bit hard to grasp without the presentation so I was lucky to be able to experience that. Bridle’s latest project Serverfarm is very inspiring.
In a smaller context, the hackathon that we organized within the program of CityLab010 project together with Creating010 (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) touched upon the social design role of autonomous objects in the city. Check the post here.
Other activities last week were the graduation ceremony of Lisa Stevens who designed (and researched) a tool for youngsters to be more aware of their pensions in the future, building upon the notion of predictive knowledge. Congrats also here to Lisa for finishing the project.