Weeknotes 182; contesting autonomy

Hello. Two weeks in the world crisis. I keep continuing exploring the new and future and diving into human-tech relations. In my monthly newsletter on Cities of Things, I explored some of the aspects of agency in an AI world that can be a dangerous iteration on the information war that this Putin war is. At least in the first phase.

Updates of last week

Next to the usual work with graduation students and planning of new projects, it was nice to meet with a new group of students that will explore the intelligent interactions with street objects for the Applied AI minor of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

We had an inspirational visit to a possible location for this year’s ThingsCon Summer edition. As it is not 100% confirmed I will share details next week probably. And the newsletter end of the month will share more on the program. You can subscribe!

I saw the presentation of Kars on Contestable AI and the role of these approaches in the design and understanding of AI systems. Very useful; find more information on the website.

I was invited to share some thoughts on trends with a group of students from the MILE program.

Upcoming this week

For the Apple fanboys and -girls, this evening the usual March event will present a new low-end phone and iPad I think, and maybe some new M2 chips, although that can be some other time too. What I am wondering about is the presentation in itself. The last couple of events were fully online and that worked out very well in how sleek it looked. Still, you miss some of the energy in the room of course. This event is again fully virtual, but I can imagine they would combine the scripted elements within a theatre setting one day. It would be cool if they are able to pull off a hybrid of virtual and reality. Would be a great lookout for future AR stuff at the same time. From hybrid to hyper realities. We will see…

For the rest, I will attend a workshop by Viktor Bedö titled “Design F®iction For Predictive Food Commoning”. And I will try to attend some of the Mozfest sessions. I invite you all to join the session Maria Luce and I facilitate on Friday 13:00-14:30CET on Trustful neighborhood relations with intelligent things in cities.

More events this week are the opening of an exhibition at Arcam architecture center on smart objects: Private Eye Butler Spy. I contributed on behalf of ThingsCon. On Wednesday evening there is a  Haunting Machines Talk.

Somewhat later IoT Rotterdam will take place again, 8 March. Including a Cities of Things hackathon.

News of last week

The usual mix of robotics and autonomous objects.

How to help humans understand robots
CO-PERFORMANCE – “Theories from cognitive science and psychology could help humans learn to collaborate with robots faster and more effectively, scientists find.”
Bendy robotic arm twisted into shape with help of augmented reality
ROBOTICS – “Imperial researchers have designed a malleable robotic arm that can be guided into shape by a person using augmented reality (AR) goggles.” Example of a human-tech interaction concept.
A Copernicus Moment. Part of a series on The Ecosystem… 
INFRASTRUCTURE – “The world is fundamentally made of ecosystems, not discrete things. These ecosystems are nested inside each other; it’s ecosystems all the way down. Every identifiable thing is an ecosystem — a person, an apple, a business; a society; everything.”
Sophia, the first intelligent humanoid robot, to debut in Dubai
ROBOTICS – “The humanoid robot Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen, will arrive in Dubai on March 8 to participate in the largest smart conference for internal auditors.” Will it need a passport?
I’m an Amazon worker and I got ‘trapped in warehouse by ROBOTS’ – here’s how I escaped
ROBOTICS – From the Sun… “An Amazon employee apparently became trapped by robot shelves when he was working on the warehouse floor.The employee shared the experience on TikTok”Will this become a game show?
Google’s New Soli Radar Tech Can Read Your Body Language
INTERACTION – “The company’s ATAP research team is using radar to help computers respond to your movements, like turning off a TV if it senses you’ve dozed off.”
Move over candy bars, New York vending machine now selling NFT art 
CRYPTO – Is this peak crypto? “Digital art collecting platform Neon has launched the first in-person non-fungible token (NFT) vending machine in New York City, aiming to make online art pieces as easily available as soda or a candy bar.”
Ethereum’s big switch to proof of stake, explained
CRYPTO ETHICS – “One of the world’s biggest blockchains is testing a new way to approve transactions. The move has been many years in the making but doesn’t come without risks.”
Bosch acquires Atlatec to bolster autonomous driving portfolio
AUTONOMOUS – More developments to ramp up for the next phase of autonomous driving. “Atlatec will be part of Bosch’s Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division, and will act as an independently operated company.”
We could be inventing new wheels with weird new physics 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Nice thoughts again by Matt Webb: “wheels are great because they make movement easier – but it turns out there are other mechanisms (surface physics, rapidly evolving vortices, one-way skin) which similarly lower the energy for motion.”
new wireless power transfer technology could charge electric vehicles on the go
AUTONOMOUS – The concept of wireless charging is quite old, but as you see examples popping up, there could be a shift near. “researchers have developed a novel method of wireless power transfer that can charge devices placed anywhere within a large area.”
DAO raises millions of dollars in crypto to support Ukraine 
WEB3 – A great example for explaining DAOs probably too.“A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) has raised $7 million in crypto for Ukraine, demonstrating a new model for charity and more.”
Sony LinkBuds Review: Excellent Earbuds for Roaming Around Town 
BOOSTED HUMAN – This is a nice example of how the place of technology is changing towards a continuous partnership and layer of enhancing the real world. “These new wireless earbuds have a hole in the middle, and they’re the best augmented reality accessory I’ve ever tried.”
Putting The ‘Go’ In Frisbee Golf With A Robot Launcher 
BOOSTED HUMAN – What is the goal of playing this game? Mastering the throwing routine or the highest score? This is not only within the domain of this hackathon but also outside in our day-to-day life of course.
Starship Technologies raises another $42M to fuel the growth of its fleet of self-driving delivery robots 
LAST MILE – As I use these vehicles a lot in examples for autonomous delivery pods on the last mile it is good to see the company is still hot. “Starship Technologies, one of the bigger players in the world of autonomous delivery robots has raised yet another round of funding, just 30 days since its last financial infusion.”
Kia unveils ‘Automode’ autonomous driving tech that will debut on the EV9 SUV
AUTONOMOUS – “Kia revealed that its EV9 SUV, will be the first to use autonomous driving tech it calls “Automode.” Not unique but a sign that we might move from level 2 to level 3 autonomous driving next year.
Kiwibot brings in $7.5 million in Pre-Series A fundingLAST MILE – Another cute delivery pod. Shipping from New Sealand. “Along with the funding, Kiwibot announced an expansion deal with Sodexo to expand its fleet from 200 robots to 1,200 robots.”

Paper of the week

In the Cities of Things reflecting post mentioned above, I refer to the concept of alienation. I found this column by Jonathan Bean a nice short expression of that concept in the case of connected products that disconnect the working from the interaction. In my own explorations to the predictive relations with AI-products could this be even more apparent. It is an architect’s view on connected products…

Bean, J. (2019). Nest rage. Interactions26(3), 22-23.

“Yet I can’t even look at the error logs on my own thermostat! The blackboxed black cylinder in the hall is a reminder that I’ve lost a bit of myself—and worse, given it over willingly. I have been alienated in my own home, by something I own. And that is most chilling of all.”

Read the column ‘Nest Rage’ of Jonathan Bean here. There is of course a lot more to be found on the theory of alienation.

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.