Weeknotes 174; robotics as consumer electronics

Hi all! If you are just returning from a holiday break, welcome back! As announced last week, the publishing moment for this newsletter will be Tuesday at 7 am from now on as I am pretty sure I will be able to make that every week. The contents of this newsletter, including a new item at the end: paper of the week

  • Updates from last week
  • Plans for this week
  • Noticed news from last week
  • Paper of the week

Updates from last week

Slow and quiet week to start in the new year. I noticed a lot of people are in vacation mode still. I used the week to look a bit ahead to the year, writing a first draft manifesto for Cities of Things and a plan for quarterly events. More on that soon I hope. I also visited the Amsterdam Light Festival and I think it was even busier than in times without lockdowns. Or it seems so. It is a reprise edition so most of the pieces I had seen before, but still a good occasion for a 7 km walk through the city. Magere Brug and Darth Fisher are the highlights for me I think.

We completed also the after movie of ThingsCon 2021 which gives a good impression of the very nice event. We start planning our next event soon and maybe set a date. You can subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated specifically.

Plans for this week

More meetings this week. Some in-person even planned. The field lab projects of Cities of Things are progressing.

As mentioned last week, I plan to attend parts of Micromobility World 2022 as it is an online event again, taking place here in the evening due to time zones. Friday TU Delft will have its yearly Dies Natalis. This year a lot of buzz was initiated by some old alumni for the wrong reasons (imho). Not going into the details, if you find it interesting you can read this overview.

To plan for next week: Sensemakers on Web3.

Noticed news of last week

Let’s make a selection of CES-related news, I add a few introductions that go beyond the gadget phase. Even without some big players’ live present, there was quite some news. Some I shared already last week as it was announced before.

Human-Robot Teams: The Next IT Management Challenge
ROBOTICS – We look into these human-nonhuman relations from a design perspective, here it also enters the IT side of thinking. “Productivity can skyrocket when people and robots work together, yet so can human frustration and fury.”
When Mind Melds With Machine, Who’s in Control? 
HUMAN – “Brain-computer interfaces are getting better all the time—and they’re about to land us in a philosophical quagmire.”I think there is a difference between treating the robotics as helper, or seeing it as a partner-in-crime.
‘We Created Living Robots That Self-Replicate’
ROBOTICS – robotics that is biodegradable and biocompatible… “Perhaps it is naive, but a solution seems to be to build robots out of the same things animals are built out of, which is cells.”
2022 robotics predictions from industry experts
ROBOTICS – A lot of these trends have been signaled in this newsletter over the last year… “Leading robotics experts, including Juan Aparicio and Ken Goldberg, share what they’ll be keeping an eye on in 2022.”
The Ticking Bomb of Crypto Fascism 
TRENDS OF 2022 – Always good to stay critical on the happy tech futures. And also stay critical on too extreme dark futures. “In America, in 2022, we have a vicious and spiraling culture war combined with an enormous asset price bubble fueled by two years of stimulus money, all resting atop an incredibly tenuous pandemic-wracked real economy. If you think the Angry White Men were scary during the Trump years, just wait until the crypto bubble pops.”
Moxie Marlinspike >> Blog >> My first impressions of web3
INFRASTRUCTURE – It could be by my selection of sources but this is widely shared as a great reflection on Web3 by the CEO of Signal.“Even strictly on the technological level, though, I haven’t yet managed to become a believer. So given all of the recent attention into what is now being called web3, I decided to explore some of what has been happening in that space more thoroughly to see what I may be missing.”Others are critical of the other activities in crypto the writer has explored, see below.
How Signal is playing with fire
PLATFORMS – “A push into untraceable payments could put end-to-end encryption at risk”; a critical piece on Signals choices in relation to crypto. 
Signal >> Blog >> New year, new CEO
PLATFORMS – Less than a week later: “It’s a new year, and I’ve decided it’s a good time to replace myself as the CEO of Signal.”
Will a new standard for smart appliances matter? – Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis
CONNECTED – Sometimes it is good to develop a standard without having all the use cases ready, or the use cases that make sense. If relations become more important than operations, this standard is important. “This means a Samsung fridge might be able to share data with a GE oven, or a Trane HVAC system might be able to tell a GE humidifier when to turn on during the winter heating season.”
Apple Glasses: VR and AR Are Coming
INFRASTRUCTURE – Will it finally happen this year? It is an interesting angle to introduce a VR goggle with a camera set to project a reality in your view-field as a kind of reversed AR concept…“Apple is investigating multiple ways virtual and augmented reality could be implemented into future iOS devices or new hardware products.”
deep optics press 32ºN smart glasses – 32ºNglasses
INFRASTRUCTURE – 2022 might be a year that we will get used to glasses with extra functions after years of bulky prototypes. And that can be more than data layers added to your view as this adapting all-in-one shows.
2022; groundhog iterations into the new year 
TRENDS OF 22 – Let me share my own 2022 reflections. A tradition to kick off the year, this time a bit different…
Deep learning and large language: How A.I. is set to evolve in 2022
INTELLIGENCE – “Areas like deep learning and large language models are set to be high on the AI research agenda this year.”
JD.com launches robotic shops Ochama in the Netherlands 
INFRASTRUCTURE – For the Dutch readers in Rotterdam or Leiden, de Kijkshop of this era is now a shop with a robotic workforce. All infrastructure layers will be shifted.
Hyundai sends Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot into the metaverse 
AUTONOMOUS – Having the Spot dogs in Metaverse feels a bit attention driven, the investment in robotics is broader: “Hyundai didn’t spend all of its time in the metaverse at CES. The company also introduced a concept branded “New Mobility of Things” that will use robotics to move inanimate objects — big and small — autonomously.”Last-mile vehicles in two levels you can say.
On the Edge in Autonomous Vehicles: The Rise of ADAS, AD, and ACES
AUTONOMOUS – Good framing. Often the levels of autonomous cars are related and compared to our current type of cars in combination with the driver (we). On the other hand, we see all kinds of supporting functions in cars now to slowly and iterative add helping autonomous functions. That is a better starting point to look at the roadmap for self-driving.“Read how developments in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous driving (AD), and ACES are poised to revolutionize all forms of transportation.”
INTERACTION – Floating buttons as future of interactive “Let’s Play in Mid-Air! 3D Air-Floating Images that You Can ‘Touch’ IMUZAK microlenses can create 3D “mid-air”
Seoul Robotics debuts a unique Level 5 solution for autonomous vehicles | Geo Week News 
AUTONOMOUS – Wondering if a centralized solution to provide Lidar data in certain areas is the way to go. The charm of personal mobility is a the decentralized character. 
Volvo partners with Luminar and Zenseact to bring autonomous driving feature to new e-SUV – TechCrunch
AUTONOMOUS – Another example of featurizing of autonomous driving… “Volvo Cars is working with lidar company Luminar and its autonomous driving (AD) software subsidiary Zenseact to introduce an AD feature to its next generation of fully electric cars.”
LG CES 2022 | LG Vision OMNIPOD | LG Global
AUTONOMOUS – LG positions its new Omnipod at CES as a living room on wheels, more than a travel buddy. Influenced by the van-life trend?
John Deere’s self-driving tractor lets farmers leave the cab — and the field – The Verge
AUTONOMOUS – Another hot product at CES was this autonomous tractor. I am a bit surprised this is seen as such a breakthrough thing; you would expect this is rather easy to make autonomous. “John Deere has announced a new package of hardware and software that it says will create “autonomous tractors.” Drivers will not only be able to take their hands off the steering wheel but leave the tractor entirely to work by itself.“
Creepy meets cool in humanoid robots at CES tech show
ROBOTICS – The Uncanny Valley is a well-known concept of course. The interesting here is that this is becoming part of the mainstream discussions.“A lifelike, child-size doll writhed and cried before slightly shocked onlookers snapping smartphone pictures Wednesday at the CES tech show – where the line between cool and slightly disturbing robot can be thin.”
Here’s a home robot that actually looks useful: a self-driving shelf – The Verge
ROBOTICS – You can expect that we will get used to robotics via a simple extension of daily tasks. If the price is right of course…“The best robots are often the simplest, which is why the Caddie and Retriever bots from Labrador Systems look so promising. They’re essentially self-driving shelves, designed to help people with limited mobility.”
Nikon’s Robot Vision Tech Can See Down to 1mm at 500FPS 
ROBOTICS – Current robot arms in manufacturing have scripted behavior. Improving visual sensing can be the first step toward having a more learning robot.“Nikon has showcased a new robot vision technology that gives automated assembly methods high speed as well as cognitive ability.”
CES 2022 Highlights: 83 Glimpses of the Future From Tech’s Big Show: EVs, PCs, Smart Home | WIRED
TRENDS 2022 – Ok, not even interesting but: “Here’s our list of over 80 products, trends, apps, and photos that caught our eye.”
Kazakhstan internet shutdown sheds light on a big Bitcoin mining mystery | Fortune
INFRASTRUCTURE – “We knew that the Eurasian nation was a major destination for miners and that the refugees recently expelled from China were flocking there. Still, it was difficult to establish how much of all the world’s coins Kazakhstan was minting.”
Future #61: Invention & reinvention
Let me share a good resource that I always check for this newsletter by Alexis Lloyd and Matt Boggie; Ethical Futures Lab. A couple of the articles of this edition can easily find a way here…

Paper of the week

This is a new part I like to introduce. Papers pop up in the news items of course too, but I hardly have time to read them front to end in that week. So the papers I pick here I have read some time ago and are kind of top of mind still. I will not share the ones I was involved in myself, but in case you are interested, Google has a nice tool that gives an overview.

This week I start ‘close-by’ and like to highlight one of the later papers of Elisa Giaccardi, with Johan Redström: Technology and More-Than-Human Design, as it is rather near to all the research I have done in the last years. It gives a great overview of the thinking in More-than-human design, addressing the design issues with computational things, critical design.

(…) the point of gravity for an ethical uptake of design is not to be located in the delegated functionality of the thing to be used (i.e., the what of intended use) but in the co-performance of people and things (i.e., the how of the relation)

It is part of a body of work as you say I think, and foundational to the Dcode project I mentioned before. The abstract:

In a more-than-human world of design and designing, outcomes and experiences are the result of a sustained yet more uncertain interplay between people and networked computational things—as well as directly between these things in themselves. Developing new design methodologies and tools to unlock the potentials of technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence for the everyday job of design is necessary but not sufficient. There is now a need to fundamentally question human-centered design and raise critical questions about the way we design.

Find the PDF here.


Sorry for the long newsletter. I might use CES as an excuse. :-)See you next 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.