Weeknotes 171; simulations of life

Hi all! The year is almost ending. Christmas is around the corner for those who celebrate that (or just visit family etc), here in the Netherlands we are again in a lockdown for a brace for the impact of Omicron as we are still not fully recovered from the last waves… It is a pity. Reading the news and zooming in on Teams does not change that much, but it is definitely not energizing. Let’s make the best of it…

Last week -on that note- we celebrate a belated ‘Sinterklaas’ or early Xmas gifting party with INFO colleagues on a distance. Next to buying the right gifts and making a nice poem, as one does in this tradition, getting the gifts on time at the houses through the post was an extra challenge. It was good fun, as good as it can get!

Furthermore, we discussed plans for the CityLab010 project together with Rotterdam UAS. Preparing the first prototypes, planning student projects, and the kick-off. Did I mention here before that this project was selected? Very nice and looking forward to starting!

We also discussed a bit on the field lab MUC AMS’s next steps. Planning meetings in-person is getting harder again, hope the lockdowns will be released in a couple of months at least.

In this last week before the holiday break we meet with the two master graduation students to update on their projects -one on designing safe routes in a surveilled city space, and one on predictive knowledge for pension planning- and we have a session for the public-private partnership research project of Waag on the design layer in the public stack. On Wednesday I will join the General Seminar session on the topic “Web3 WTF!?”.

I did not see anything else to put on the event calendar in this first lockdown week. In the news last week another mix of topics on robots, autonomy, transformations, and the first trend reports for 2022 start dropping.

The transformation to a third simulation of life

Why it’s too early to get excited about Web3
Tim O’Reilly became even more famous when he coined a description of Web 2.0 that was embraced by the rest of the world. So how does he thinks of Web3?
“I like to remind people that I wrote “What Is Web 2.0?” five years after the dot-com bust with the explicit goal of explaining why some companies survived and others did not. So too, I suspect that it won’t be till after the next bust that we’ll really understand what, if anything, Web3 consists of.”
It is an interesting read with some wise words on the state of Web3. At the same time, it is hard to compare the current transition to the one of 2004. That we are very early stage and need more proof if we are indeed in Web3 at all, is very true.
Simulation is the answer – The Bounding Box
Tobias brings together some interesting questions about simulations and more in relation to understanding our next iteration of the internet, or a current state. Chew on it, I myself have to think about the difference between a potential new (infra)structure that is emerging build upon new values and relations. That would be a better definition of the metaverse than the device-interactions that are creating simulations and representations to make it ‘tangible’…
As Tobias questions:
“Is there something better than the. open pit mines of the socials, the deep sea mining of NFTs or the hubristic folly of whole-Earth simulation that you can do with fast computers?”
NVIDIA’s New AI: Journey Into Virtual Reality!
Two Minute Papers is a great channel for finding papers on AI developments. 
This one could be linked to the metaverse, to living in a simulation, and other concepts.
Misinformation Has Already Made Its Way to Facebook’s Metaverse 
“Virtual worlds will be even harder to police than social media.”
There you have it. The more real and emerging the context of the fakeness, the harder or more impactful breaches will be… 
Tom Bilyeu explaining NFTs to Quentin Tarantino
As a reader of this newsletter, you don’t need an explanation of the NFT concept, but in case you need to explain, in one minute…
“2021 was the year of VR, and I have one stat to show you why: This year, Oculus has sold more headsets than Microsoft did Xboxs”
You can expect this tweet statement be used in lots of slidedecks in the coming year…

Facilitating autonomous partners

Hyundai’s New Robot Can Deliver Groceries And Carry Babies
“Hyundai’s new robot is a four-wheeled Segway-style electric vehicle called the Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED). It can serve drinks and carry babies.”
Not only because this is a concept of research in our CityLab project, it was also something in earlier research, the interesting part is that it is presented as a multipurpose consumer help system. 
Inside Zoox: The autonomous vehicle totally changing transportation
“Take an exclusive ride in the vehicle with no steering wheel that’s aiming to make car ownership a thing of the past.”
Seen this public transport pod of the future before, but this is a nice insight in the state of the development, the testing, and some of the choices the company is facing.
Apple Patent for Self-Driving Car Could Include Exterior Warning Sign to Tell Drivers When the Computer is in Control | Tech Times
“A recently found Apple patent for its self-driving car reveals the vehicle could include an exterior warning sign telling drivers and pedestrians when the computer is in control.”
Is the car horn not that signaling system everyone recognizes? What triggers the thought of how different people in different car cultures will respond to horning cars, or in line with this Apple signaling, what will be the best ways to signal in different cultures..?
The 5 Biggest Connected And Autonomous Vehicle Trends In 2022
“Vehicle technology is evolving rapidly and is becoming one of today’s most important technology areas. In 2022, we will see many new developments and advances. Here are some of the trends that will reshape the mobility space over the next year.”
A typical futurist optimist. I don’t think I disagree with the underlying developments but it might a bit longer or take some different turns. Still a nice reference for your own opinion forming.
Here’s How Advances In Ambient Intelligence Will Make Riding In AI Self-Driving Cars Quite Cozy, Like A Pleasing Lullaby For Us All
“Here’s how Ambient Intelligence systems will aid AI and especially enhance the passenger experience while riding in a self-driving car.”
Scanning the article what stands out to me is a nice exploration beyond the phase we are getting used to using autonomous rides. If that is our future we will have more different operators and they need to position differently creating brand experiences in the behavior of the autonomous fleet. Or will it adapt every ride to your prefs?

Robotics design and impact

Children as Social Robot Designers 
“What happens when you let kids design their own social robot from scratch”An older project as it was part of the HRO2020 conference as an academic research.
Stanford engineers develop a robotic hand with a gecko-inspired grip
“Across a vast array of robotic hands and clamps, there is a common foe: the heirloom tomato. You may have seen a robotic gripper deftly pluck an egg or smoothly palm a basketball – but, unlike human hands, one gripper is unlikely to be able to do both and a key challenge remains hidden in the middle ground.”
Who Killed the Robot Dog?  | WIRED
“The robotic companion was once a dream of techno-utopianism, but has instead become a terrifying weapon. What happened?”
Nice framing. I have been referring some times before to the BASAAP concept of BERG years ago; autonomous technology is expected as it is ‘as smart as a puppy’. Puppies grow old…
Unbundling the office
I am always interested in unbundling traditional things to rebundle into new ones. It is a strong driver for rethinking imho.
Matt is doing this here with hybrid working and the services needed to build remote teams. Not totally sold yet, but a good start for the rethink that is very recognizable…
“The most interesting part of the unbundling of the office is that it allows companies to get smaller by divesting of in-house IT, in-house facilities, long-term leases, etc. Anything that allows companies to get smaller is interesting.”
Fjord Trends 2022: Emerging Trends & Challenges
It is that time of year again, maybe I should do a separate comparison of the trends later. For now these Fjord ones are maybe a bit general but nice as point of reflection of your own thinking.
As Fjord is part of Accenture the trends are linked to business consulting of course. The trends will function to help the consultants to make their clients feel they are doing the right thing following the advice. In that sense, the trends fulfill their goals well.
Sidewalk Labs products will be folded into Google proper
“Starting next year, Sidewalk products Pebble, Mesa, Delve, and Affordable Electrification will join Google, becoming core to Google’s urban sustainability product efforts”
This feels like a path that was in the making from the beginning. Or at least everyone made the connection between Google and Sidewalk Labs which eroded the trust from the beginning. It apparently became an incubator for urban tech spinoffs.
The internet runs on free open-source software. Who pays to fix it?
Hot last week; the Log4J failing and consequences. 
One backlash can be the lost trust in open-source for certain applications. It seems at least acc this article: 
“The fallout from the Log4J vulnerabilities is a perfect example of a larger problem, though. The flaws are in the design of the software, and so to find it, you need someone who really understands the design. Current “bug bounty” models, which pay outsiders to take a look at software and find flaws, don’t do enough to help here, because outsiders simply don’t have the financial incentive to develop that kind of deep understanding. ”
S.Korea to test AI-powered facial recognition to track COVID-19 cases 
“South Korea will soon roll out a pilot project to use artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thousands of CCTV cameras to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus, despite concerns about the invasion of privacy.”
NTU Singapore scientists develop biodegradable printed paper batteries
These kind of weak signals from the future are always nice to follow. 

See you next week…

It might be a bit shorter edition next week. Curious to see how CES is ramping up and have another year with more robots and autonomous cars, beyond gadgets. Or will Omicron-fear dominate the US too?

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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.