Weeknotes 163; an intersection in the metaverse

Thanks for subscribing to the new readers! Let’s start with a quick view of activities in the last week.

As mentioned last week I visited Dutch Design Week, I had not had all the time that you need for a thorough reflection, but it was good to get an impression. It was a less overwhelming edition both in size, number of visitors, and impact of the work. From what I saw, of course, I missed more than I could visit. Good to see so much attention for responsible and sustainable impact, for AI and design. Also after visiting a couple of other exhibitions on Wednesday I think Manifestations had a nice collection again of smaller and bigger questions about the relation of technology and human relations. See the website for an overview of the projects.

I watched the online Upclose & personal show on Tuesday and part of Wednesday. Just like last year a nice mix of conversations and projects. You can still watch it back.

Let’s have a look at this week. After the Apple event last week and announcements of Google with new phones, Facebook will announce its further plans for the metaverse and even have a rebranding (to Meta?) as Google did some years ago (but who is using the Alphabet name?). I heard already some analysis on the why; mainly to free Zuckerberg from the harder questions on responsibility for the impact of his platforms. We’ll see. The metaverse as a concept is also something that keeps been discussed. And not for nothing. The take of Ian Bogost is definitely an interesting one. It is interesting to see if it is approached as a separate world you need to access with all kinds of devices, the VR approach, the digital twin becomes your reality so to say. Or will it much more an ambient computing reality, something Walt Mossberg repeated in a good podcast last week. I am feeling more for that approach too. We move from every thing being connected to connected every…

We cannot forget that Facebook had tricked us into a ubiquitously connected reality at the moment the social icons were introduced; sold as a personalization strategy. Will Meta have the same impact? Will it be meta like they hope and tell, or can it be something that is not to foresee as the social button fabrics were? Is it still possible to do something so ‘hidden impactful’ being such exposed with Facebook so in the spotlights?

Enough about this. Before diving into the captured articles of last week, I can share two events. There might be more, but in that case, they did not manage to find me.

Before anything else, check these

the Intersection – a film by Superflux

“Set in the near future, our film the Intersection journeys from a violent present to a cooperative future. Telling stories of active hope from those who have fought to reimagine extractive technology, to serve community, support nature, and value planetary relationships.”Superflux created another super inspiring and provoking movie to let us think about not so far away futures. Watching the beginning make you feel we are on the verge of this…

Facebook Understands the Metaverse All Too Well – The Atlantic

This is well-argued against the metaverse shaped by Facebook.“The executives know that no company, however big, can capture all the world. But there is an alternative: If only the public could be persuaded to abandon atoms for bits, the material for the symbolic, then people would have to lease virtualized renditions of all the things that haven’t yet been pulled online. Slowly, eventually, the uncontrollable material world falls away, leaving in its stead only the pristine—but monetizable—virtual one.”It is the question if metaverse in that sense is there already, are we living a kind of metaverse as we are trapped in our social networks?

Let’s continue with a round of robotics

Swarm robotics: Legged robots connect, form centipede-like robot in new system – Big Think

“Inspired by the group behaviors of simple animals, a team of roboticists has developed a new way for swarm robots to maneuver on land.”Promising thought to learn that collaboration works better than adversarial strategies..

These weird virtual creatures mutate their bodies to solve problems | MIT Technology Review

“these “unimals” (short for “universal animals”) could in fact help researchers develop more general-purpose intelligence in machines. “I really like these learning interactions built in our future companions. Will have to keep in mind what will happen when they swarm together.

Ai-Da the artist robot and AI’s place in art

“Ai-DA, an AI and robot designed to create art, was detained at the Egyptian border- and it’s reopened the debate on AI in art.”I am pretty sure I shared Ai-DA before, but having it on an art-critique weblog is interesting.

Flingbot: A Robotic Artist That Flings Paint

Not sure, maybe I shared this robot earlier. A real expressionist style.

A3: robot orders increased 67% in Q2 2021

“A3 stats show positive outlook for automation industry as manufacturers and others continue to get back to business”Always good to have some numbers to support the more reflective observations that robotic support is growing.

Embodied piloting Moxie companion with pediatric patients

“Embodied will pilot its Moxie companion robot with the University of Rochester Medical Center and Golisano Children’s Hospital.”Update on Moxie, getting more relevant I hope.

And some autonomous news of last week

Foldable Steering-Wheel System Built for Self-Driving Cars

I was not totally convinced with the first look. It makes me think how the first cars back in the beginning of the 20th century had a steering stick that and brakes that evolved from carriages. This steer also feels like a horseless carriage approach. Nevertheless, a weak signal about what will come.

meet the world’s first automatic train in hamburg by DB and siemens

“DB (deutsche bahn), in collaboration with siemens mobility, reveals the world’s first automatic train in the city of hamburg.”Autonomous underground systems are not new but it is interesting how this starting from and mixing with the normal operation I reckon.

amsterdam-rotterdam is the first european hyperloop network route

“The european commission has awarded 15M euros to the dutch company hardt. the goal is to fasten the development of an hyperloop infrastructure.”

How long will a ride take?

Lucid CEO believes autonomous taxi fleets are a decade away – SlashGear

“he believes the industry is about a decade away from fielding fleets of robotaxies. Rawlinson went on to say autonomous taxi services are not coming anytime soon, even with the most advanced sensing systems in the world.”

A decade is even rather soon, although a depends on the definitions of course. We need a generation for a full transition to a mix of shared vehicles and autonomous personal transport. On specific routes it might go faster.

The Future of the Car (with Ford’s Hau Thai-Tang)

“Ford mastered mass production of cars with internal combustion engines a century ago. Can the industrial titan reinvent itself in a climate-conscious world?”

This is a nice conversation on the future of mobility. I like also the special attention for the last mile delivery in combination with predictive knowledge.

Complete list of the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicles of the Week

Nice tip, a collection of the weirdest electric vehicles that can be found at Alibaba. It might look strange and unrealistic but if we end in a future of autonomous vehicles that are so failsafe we will see opening up possibilities for strange moving creatures like these.

AI and impact

AI is reinventing what computers are | MIT Technology Review

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute: how computers are made, with high volumes low precision calculation. And 2nd change; from programming to training of computers. Last change: the interface changes. Everything is a computer, and we use different forms of interaction.

Dystopia Is Upon Us. Are You Ready? | WIRED

“You need to flip the coin and use the platforms with your best interests in mind, rather than the platforms using you for their benefit.”I don’t think this is synced with the new Superflux movie but it deals with the same topics and hunch for a way out a dystopian reality where the algorithms are filtering our reality continuously. And are our reality.

UK schools are using facial recognition to take pupils’ lunch money – The Verge

“A group of nine schools in North Ayrshire in Scotland have started using facial recognition on pupils to verify payments for food. The company installing the technology says it’s faster and more hygienic.”

Why is this a problem? It is not in balance; collecting lunch money and making a link to your unique identifier that your face is. Enough other options to build this contactless.

Cyborgs and more than human

The Doctor Will Cyborg You Now — Sentiers

Cyborgs are the next stage after boosting humans with extended capabilities. If we are getting used to our boosters we could grow into a new breed. These thoughts is what the first quick read of this article triggered with me :-)

Scientists Enable Blind Woman To See Simple Shapes Using Brain Implant | University of Utah Health

“Newly published research details how a team of scientists from the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah and Spain’s Miguel Hernández University successfully created a form of artificial vision for a blind woman using a prosthesis hardwired into her brain.”

We are all living a filtered life. If you can increase the resolution of the differences of observation

On flatpack furniture and .zip folders

IKEA seems to research the ideal furniture set in cyberspace.

The Future Is Not a Solution – Public Books

Seems like an interesting book to read… “In sum, the future is not out there. It is not a solution to today’s problems, to echo Carey’s critique. Rather, it is within each and every one of us, in all of our varied human (and nonhuman) existences, as well as together in relation, imagination, and continued struggle to understand ourselves.”

Apple’s Long Journey to the M1 Pro Chip | by Steven Sinofsky 

“This thread explores the journey from the original Mac to today’s M1 Pro-based MacBook and the history behind such a mind-blowing innovation.” 

Looks like a great history for Apple fans.

Sorry for sharing so many articles. Next week I hope to have more time to limit the number or articles! :-)

Have a great week!

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.