Weeknotes 179; touching robot creatures

Welcome to another week! Covid measures are loosening up in several places. Here in the Netherlands, we see that people go more and more outside again, the number of people getting infected is still quite huge and definitions have been shifted what mild corona means; I am still lucky not to have been ill (knock-on-wood…).

Meetups and events are also bouncing back a bit towards in-person gatherings. Still, a lot of online events to join all over the world, see below.


In other news, I mentioned the Mozfest session last week that is planned for 11 March. I still need to find out how I can add Maria Luce to the facilitators/speakers. I am very happy she will be doing an introduction on human-robot interactions in a critical design context.

Last week I missed the publishing interview in a Dutch newspaper, it is the local edition of AD for the city of Utrecht and I was asked to reflect on the future of mobility and public transport in the city of Utrecht. It can be read in Dutch on the website.

Viktor thanks for inviting me to the design f®iction workshop session about urban tech and food futures. A little impression of a first preparing session for the workshop beginning of March. Having new uses of food waste to create more circular food does raise the question of how to remove the framing of waste but take the afterlife of freshness as part of the chain. And is real fresh food more vulnerable to becoming waste than fabricated nutritions? 

Furthermore, we had made some nice progress with Munich Amsterdam field lab plans and sessions, and Demie officially started her graduation project linked to the field lab CityLab010.

Interesting events

In the coming week(s) some interesting sessions are organized. First I like to mention the Superflux exhibition in Amsterdam that will be opened on 18 February and runs through April. The work of Superflux is always super interesting and thought-provoking for our near human-nonhuman interactions, I shared one of their presentations a couple of months ago. The location is also very nice: Droog gallery. More information here.

This week I am looking forward to joining the General Seminar session on Solar Punk. At the same moment, you can join Sensemakers AMS on VR/AR/etc

Reinventing the City is three days with a lot of -scientific- sessions. I plan to join a couple.

On Thursday Speculative Future Amsterdam is relaunching. Or you go for a good old debate on AI (in Dutch).

IoT London is online again next week (22 February).

News of the week

In general, it is interesting to notice the number of articles on robots is rising every week in my daily brew Mailbrew. I filter now more to specific robotic examples of ‘cobots’ (a returning framing) or autonomous robots. Not all robots are intelligent of course, often adaptive in their behavior but often controlled for repetitive tasks or even remote-controlled (like Spot often is).

cookies and algorithms become robotic creatures in ‘accept all’ exhibition
THINGS – Sometimes (or regularly) a narrative of the concept is more exciting than the execution. The idea that the connected life we live nowadays will feedback to the real world with new real behavior is a super important development.“This designer/artist Guillaume Slizewicz developed a robotic performance in which five small robots with limited intelligence follow spectators around.”The robots look very cute, the interactions are rather straightforward. The narrative is strong.
The metaverse is just a new word for an old idea 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Good to dive into the history and not be too lazy to hold to that one narrative. “To understand what we are—and should be—building, we need to look beyond Snow Crash.”
Comprehensive synthesis of the technological, ecological and political critique of blockchainism 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Another critical piece on the impact of Web3, here in relation to the motivations shaped by libertarian philosophy. “Rosenthal concludes his talk by affirming that he values decentralization and it is that value that causes him to reject blockchainism. He reminds us that the billions pouring into the Web3 bubble are bets on attaining scale and dominance – the only reason to pump billions into blockchain technology is if you think that you can corner a market and make it back. In other words, Web3 investors see high barriers to entry as a feature, not a bug, and they’re committed to centralization.”
Navigating uncertainty — part 2. How three Swedish food actors coped…
INFRASTRUCTURE – “Based on the three cases presented in the last blog post, evidence shows that the pandemic opened up a critical ‘need for change’ for food system actors since pre-existing operations were unable to function during parts of the crisis. The structure below outlines layers that enabled the transformational potential of each actor, along with different factors that helped them to shift and iterate their methods over time.”
Collaborative Robot (Cobot) Market 2022 Comprehensive Strategic Report 
ROBOTICS – The Cobot becomes a category with its market research: “This Market report covers technical data, manufacturing plants analysis, and raw material sources analysis of Collaborative Robot (Cobot) Industry as well as explains which product has the highest penetration, their profit margins, and R&D status.”
GeoSence: testing and applying geofencing technologies in cities 
INFRASTRUCTURE – The orchestration of the use of cities will not be enforced by rules but by invisible fences. You can wonder if that is better.“The study shows that geofencing has been applied within private car transport, shared micro-mobility, freight and logistics, public bus transportation, and ride-sourcing for implemented and real-traffic trial use cases. For future use cases, geofencing has been tested or conceptually developed for automated vehicles and shared automated mobility.”
Van natie naar netwerk 
INTELLIGENCE – Is there an AI-race or even war near? And what does that mean for our notion of states vs networks, something that has been part of the debate since networked-based communities emerged?“Wat leert het bovenstaande ons nu precies? Allereerst dat er tot op zekere hoogte sprake is van een internationale AI-race. Tegelijkertijd hebben we gezien dat er beperkingen zijn aan dat frame. Heel concreet betekent dit dat we als Nederland meer kunnen bereiken als we ons perspectief verschuiven van natie naar netwerk.”
Apple’s “realityOS” surfaces in GitHub commits, App Store logs 
REALITY – Good for all juice-tech bloggers; confirmations of the rumors that Apple is gearing up the activities for merging reality experiences in the devices.“Software developers have discovered apparent references to a new Apple operating system called “realityOS” in App Store upload logs and in GitHub repositories used by the company.“
Here’s the difference between driver-assist and vehicle automation
AUTONOMOUS – I expect that most of the readers of this newsletter are aware of these differences; “Driver-assist and autonomous vehicle technologies are rapidly evolving. But what do these terms mean and what’s the difference between them?”It would make sense to reframe the levels of automation to the level of assistance…
Tesla competes in the race for vehicle automation. Who will win?
AUTONOMOUS – The author wonders what we will see more in the end; fleets of electric vehicles with supporting autonomous functions, or full-fetched robotaxis.“The robotaxi industry and Tesla have significant challenges scaling and evolving their tech. Furthermore, they all need to convince the public that they want to travel by autonomous vehicle — and this may be their biggest challenge of all.”
Scientists develop fully woven, smart display | University of Cambridge
INFRASTRUCTURE – “An international team of scientists have produced a fully woven smart textile display that integrates active electronic, sensing, energy and photonic functions. The functions are embedded directly into the fibres and yarns, which are manufactured using textile-based industrial processes.”Poetic.
Researchers create new learning model for prosthetic limbs – The Robot Report
ROBOTICS – “For the last decade, scientists have been trying to figure out how to use surface electromyography (EMG) signals to control prosthetic limbs.”
Robot As A Service Market to Reach US$ 41.3 Bn by end of 2028, Says Coherent Market Insights | News | wfmz.com
ROBOTICS – “According to Coherent Market Insights, The global Robot as a Service market was valued at US$ 12.6 Bn in 2020 and is expected to reach US$ 41 Bn by 2028.”Those numbers are not that interesting for the exact numbers; the concept of RaaS had a lot of potentials to speed up mass robot use.
sony’s puppy robot can now be carried with its new sling that resembles a baby carrier
ROBOTICS – Once in a while it is good to stress that a lot of the robotics is as ‘smart as a puppy’ (reference: Google BASAAP).“aibosling takes its design cues from the style of a backpack with adjustable straps to give the users freedom to fit the sling to how they want it.”
Can microvillages make housing better for a new generation?
CITIES – Are we rethinking the way we live after 2 years of different relations with home and work life. “For some, the “sweet life” is turning sour. Is co-housing the cure for the next generation of Americans?”
Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright houses created in 3D 
META – Can our virtual world be beautiful perfect, or does perfection make our life dull?“Angi creates three unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright houses through 3D technology; see the Devin House (1896), Cottage Studio (1946), and Lake Tahoe Lodge (1923)”
SYSTEMS – Using a little word game to build a theory of reasoning in systems “In a small, safe, cozy way, Wordle gives us the means to experience once again the pleasures of accurate and precise reasoning in pursuit of truths, and look past mere vibes that feel good to worlds that make sense.”

Paper of the week


This week a paper with a more applied topic instead of a conceptual exploration:

Williamsson, J. (2021). Business model design for campus-based autonomous deliveries–A Swedish case study. Research in Transportation Business & Management , 100758.

The autonomous delivery services with different sized carts are poster child for new fellow citizens. The campus areas are the current testbeds. This study dives into the business drivers and possibilities of scale. In the typical Silicon Valley business models other aspects are often more important; rapid growth to please potential investors. It is only applaudable to look at real business models here.

Willingness to make investments depend on the freight service provider’s ability to present tangible benefits to stakeholders and generate sustainable customer value. To support a scalable business model, autonomous delivery services must be designed to minimize interference with stakeholders encountered in public spaces and at delivery spots.

I had not the time to read all details but it seems like the (business) success of the delivery service is not in the autonomous behavior of the carts but in the organization of the service as a whole. Orchestration of the service behavior is part of the autonomous system (see the Cities of Things manifesto).

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.