Weeknotes 173; a new year

Happy new year! Thanks for being a reader this year again. I hope I will be able to serve you inspiration and useful links again this year via this newsletter (thanks Stacey for the nice words on Twitter!). I am always thinking about the format of this newsletter. Balancing between a personal update on my activities and the impressions of the news. I think the latter is the most important for you readers, but some context is nice too I reckon, as it is a personal newsletter after all :-) 

Personal updates

Sharing my calendar of events and reporting on the ones I visited will remain an important part. Adding personal reflections to the articles and reasoning why it is interesting to share is something I think is important.

These updates remain also a source for my Monthly reflections on the Cities of Things that I post in a separate newsletter (thanks Peet for the nice words on Linkedin!). One of my work-related new year’s resolutions is to establish a manifesto(-like) document for the Cities of Things (collection of objects make intelligence, relations over nodes, sharing goals, value power of non-human contributions, to name some top-of-mind). Will feed back into this newsletter too.

So let’s dive into the new year together, and as a slight change of formatting: let me use some headings for different parts (adding ‘personal updates’ now).

Event calendar

Nothing to report on from last week as I had a break. I did not miss anything I think. The only ‘event’ was getting my booster maybe ;-)

Nothing on the calendar for this week now, still a quiet week. On Wednesday Sensemakers is hosting an online pubquiz though. I did not see a lot of new year’s events this year by the way.

You might already want to check Micromobility World 2022 on Wednesday 12 January. I follow the newsletter and podcast with pleasure, the events are sometimes a bit sponsor-focused, but I expect the year event to be interesting. With the time differences, it is an evening program for European readers.

News of the week

These articles captured my attention last week (from several newsletters, Twitter feeds, and other sources).

If AI Is Predicting Your Future, Are You Still Free?
INTELLIGENCE – Predictive knowledge is an important part of dealing with the complex world we live in.“Predictions are not innocuous. The extensive use of predictive analytics can even change the way human beings think about themselves. There is value in believing in free will.”
The Creepy TikTok Algorithm Doesn’t Know You 
INTELLIGENCE – TikTok remains a great object of exploring the consequences of life permeating AI. I’m not sure if the downplaying in this column is helping how right it might be “So although TikTok seems to uncover things about users that they didn’t necessarily know about themselves, in reality, it’s more accurate to say that TikTok shows you where your attention already goes—or would go, if you were freed from the social norms that keep your curiosity corralled offline.”
Superheroes create cultural acceptance for popular oligarchy
FUTURES – The train of thoughts of Matt delivers often interesting reflections on phenomenons. Like this one; what does superheroes culture learns us about skewed societies?“Put like this, it seems like the concept of the superhero is softening us up for a popular oligarchy: an unattainable class of humanity which is super-wealthy with super abilities, and somehow championed by the rest of us?”
How does intelligent transportation change our lives? –
PALTECH – The heading is a bit dull but the article shows some nice developments in a changing relationship between humans and tech.
Scientists Teach Robot to Independently Navigate Maze
ROBOTICS – another fine example how to learn robotic movements “The robot then gradually learns to make the right decision with each execution of the experiment. This helps it avoid receiving corrective stimuli, and it eventually finds the right way out of the maze. The learning process takes place exclusively on the organic adaptive circuit. ”
Age of robots nearer than you think
ROBOTICS – “From ground to sky, and at home, robots have permeated into daily lives; Korean tech firms – both small and big – are betting on this fast-emerging market this year” Let’s keep an eye on the developments in South Korea.
China unveils five-year plan for robotics
CHINA – A new five-year plan is aiming for robotising Chinese society; “The document lays out several smaller goals for the Chinese robotics industry before 2025, but the overarching goal is to make China a key source of global robotics innovation. The government also expects the average annual growth rate of operating income in the robotics industry to exceed 20%.”
NZRAS releases a robotics roadmap for New Zealand – The Robot Report
ROBOTICS – More robotic future planning, in New Zealand this time. With compelling visualisation. “The roadmap is a first for New Zealand. It gives an overview of the current state of RAS, and outlines sectors with potential for growth.”
Digital World Premiere of the VISION EQXX
NEW MATERIALS – This very slick Mercedes near future concept EQXX is all about efficiency “The new currency”. A shape you draw as a kid in the 80s to envision future cars. But more interesting how AI mixed with behavioral design is stimulating also the driver to behave efficient, and how the physical structural components are optimized in shape. As a bonus; this video shows the influence of Apple’s lock-down product launches… Very slick too.
This transforming autonomous fleet of electric car pods is built for socializing in 2050 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Normally autonomous pods are just replacing vehicles with human drivers, but this concept is leveraging the notion of a system of pods and the possibilities that brings. “Imagine a future where living in close quarters will be the norm, and so will the vehicles in about five decades from now reflect that.”
The best robots to buy for your home this year
ROBOTICS – An overview of different robots that might be presented at CES2022 (a lot of companies have withdrawn). What can we learn? Robots for the home look like a vacuum or have a face.
The future of clothing could save your life
PALTECH – Wearables as part of a healthier lifestyle is not new (Fitbit and all others), but the seamless integration in garments is an interesting development to watch.“…there’s an industry-wide shift towards crafting e-garments that can be used for healthcare purposes. Wearing clothes is an everyday part of life, and designers see a real opportunity to amp up current garments with technology that can seamlessly monitor health.”
Waymo plans a fleet of self-driving, all-electric robotaxis with Chinese automaker Geely 
AUTONOMOUS – “News of the deal between Geely and Waymo is another demonstration of just how busy the auto world is with partnerships and collaborations as self-driving and electric tech shakes up old incumbents.”Old demo companies grow mature.
54 Million Autonomous Vehicles Will Be on Our Roads by 2024
AUTONOMOUS – Numbers in titles work for attention. It is a definition question in the end if it will be reality; it triggers thinking about the consequences: “But with many people still concerned about these new vehicles, researchers are working to enhance safety on shared roads by improving the reliability of the traffic control devices used to keep all drivers safe.”
Hyundai stops engine development and reassigns engineers to EVs
INFRASTRUCTURE – A sign of these times “Yet more proof that the internal combustion engine is on borrowed time.”
The best and worst robots of 2021 | Popular Science
ROBOTICS – Time for some looking back. “From Tesla, to Amazon, to the US military, robots made a hot purchase in many industries during the pandemic. Here are some of the best and most innovating ones of 2021.”The emerged categories are a potential good structuring.
Friendly Indie micro-publishers
LEARNING – super nice overview of news sources of Patrick.
Tech questions for 2022 — Benedict Evans
TRENDS22 – Benedict Evans is one of the proven smart predicting people. So he packaged his 2022 trends into questions.“Sometimes the center of gravity in tech is very clear, but as we enter 2022 there are lots of areas where trillion-dollar questions are wide open. These are the questions I wonder about today, from crypto to cars to fast fashion – there are others.”
Editorial: 10 predictions for the IoT in 2022
TRENDS22 – “As we begin wrapping up the year, it’s time to predict what the IoT industry will look like in 2022.”The trends are not groundbreaking I think, more tech-focused than user-focused.
Tesla Optimus: Can Elon Musk really deliver a humanoid robot in 2022? 
ROBOTICS – What do experts think about the promises? “In August 2021, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would build a humanoid robot designed to “eliminate dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks” and respond to voice commands, promising to show off a prototype in 2022. Can the company deliver on Musk’s goal?”
A’seedbot: tiny autonomous robot transforms desert into verdant landscape
ROBOTICS – cute but useful; “A’seedbot created by mazyar etehadi is a tiny autonomous robot that aims to convert the uninhabitable sandy desert soil into a verdant landscape.”


Thanks for reading!

One practical note: I decided to change the publishing time to Tuesday morning at 7 am CET. I compose the update on Mondays and I scheduled it for 6 pm last year, but too many times it was delayed thru appointments. This publishing gives me the possibility to use the evening working slot too. I also noticed that the engagement was the same for delayed posts, or even better, so I hope fits indeed your calendar too.

One second note: feel always invited to send responses, questions, suggestions, comments to the newsletter! There should be an option below, or use one of the social channels.

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.