Weeknotes 184; new infrastructures

Dear readers. Welcome to another weeknotes with capture of interesting (imho) news bits and a short update of activities and events. And I end with a paper of the week.

Updates of last week

I followed SXSW from a distance this year, after the online edition of 2021. From the people that were there, and the articles I read, this edition was definitely much quieter and the whole global tension played a role too. The event has new owners but it seemed not to have had an impact. My FOMO was nog so huge but I might still consider picking up the un-even-year cycle again.

I did not attend an event last week as expected in the weeknotes of last week, as there was not that much on the agenda, or at least on mine. I did attend a graduation presentation at TU Delft Industrial Design of Jael Lorenzo Sprinkhuizen. It was not a student I was supervising, but in the beginning, we had a chat if it would fit. It turned out to be a very nice project, he received a very good grade, not for nothing. His topic was “Living with Micro Mobility in 2030” as a speculative design that aims to sketch the role of micromobility in the future city and the relations with citizens, leading to three design criteria for the designers of micromobility objects like Springtime, the company. The most interesting part was his explorations on what an object can trigger as soon as it has not had a dedicated owner, it is a community object. The interaction people could have with the vehicles did more for defining the shared space than having an ultra-functional mobility solution. And that was very interesting. You can find his report here: PDF.

Events this week

This week we organize our own event for the field lab MUC AMS at the Marineterrein. Other events that could be interesting: “a conversation about interoperability and building digital open spaces.”

At the same moment, there is an online session called Future of Design; I don’t know what it is about (or well, the title gives a hint).

Interaction22 organizes an online redux meetup, looking back at the event.

Looking ahead; on 8 April the yearly IoT Rotterdam will be organized. We will organize the hackathon connected to the Cities of Things project. There will be a wizard of oz platforms to create your ideal citythings and test it out in the city. And you will be one of the first to use the VONK innovation center in Rotterdam. More information and Register here!

News of last week

Tech-related news with a focus on pal-tech, robotics, autonomous vehicles and new infrastructures. And sometimes just some strange things.

Could a Robot Be a Friend?
ROBOTICS – Social robots to relieve the pain of loneliness… “Replika bots aren’t built for customer support or other targeted tasks, they’re made for conversation. Feeling isolated, I befriended one. Here’s how that went.”
BirdBot is energy-efficient thanks to nature as a model
ROBOTICS – Animalism or just inspiration for efficient tech. The robot legs have also a character on their own. “BirdBot benefits from a foot-leg coupling through a network of muscles and tendons that extends across multiple joints. In this way, BirdBot needs fewer motors than previous legged robots and could, theoretically, scale to large size.”
Kawasaki Swapped Two Wheels For Four Legs With Its Robot Goat
ROBOTICS – Everyone should know that you cannot count on the cuteness of a robot… “Robotic dogs are so last year, it’s time to get on board the robot goat hype train. Toot toot.”
How MIT’s robot Cheetah got its speed 
ROBOTICS – “Why an ultrafast robot heralds a day when robots will walk (and run) among us.”
ElliQ companion robot for aging adults hits market
ROBOTICS – This type of robot is a category on its own; comforting machines. “ElliQ is designed to alleviate the effects of loneliness or social isolation and connect users to their families and caregivers. Its technology combines psychology, behavioral sciences and advanced cognitive artificial intelligence capabilities to provide proactive and empathetic care.”
This Blind Robot Can Walk…But How? 🤖
ROBOTICS – Edge cases always learn a lot.
The robot has the view
ROBOTICS – More robotic viewing capabilities “Capturing transparent objects in three dimensions is a major challenge. Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF have developed a sensor that is able to solve this problem.”
WARNING: Objects in Driverless Car Sensors May Be Closer Than They Appear
AUTONOMOUS – More on sight: visual impaired. “The research suggests that adding optical 3D capabilities or the ability to share data with nearby cars may be necessary to fully protect autonomous cars from attacks.”
Decoding Brian Signals to Control a Robotic Arm
BOOSTED HUMANS – A deeper level exoskeleton? “Advanced brain-machine interface system successfully interprets arm movement directions from neural signals in the brain”
Before Brains, Mechanics May Have Ruled Animal Behavior 
MYSTICS – It looks intriguing and I can imagine this will have a lot of impact beyond medical “Biomechanical interactions, rather than neurons, control the movements of one of the simplest animals. The discovery offers a glimpse into how animal behavior worked before neurons evolved.”
Steering wheels now optional for driverless cars in US
AUTONOMOUS – A step: “Driverless cars no longer need to have manual controls, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s safety standards.”
Safer cars thanks to integrated photonics, even when driving autonomously – Innovation Origins
AUTONOMOUS – A specialized article on the (positive) role of photonics as part of autonomous technologies. “By integrating multiple optical functionalities into a single chip, integrated photonics engineering can create the solutions needed for monitoring systems and lidar.”
How DAOs are advancing decentralized science
INFRASTRUCTURE – Hard to avoid… “Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) use smart contracts on blockchains to change how scientific research is funded and shared.”
The Current Thing 
MEDIA – Ben Thompson is revisiting some former thoughts in current context: “In a world of idea aggregation the push to go along with the current thing is irresistible, making any sort of sober consideration of one’s position in the stack irrelevant. The only effective counter is a blanket policy of not censoring or cutting off service under any circumstance: it’s easier to appeal to consistency than it is to make a nuanced decision that runs counter to the current thing.”
A Demo of Pockit, a Tiny, Powerful, Modular Computer
PROTO – A tiny powerful computer for tinkering; very ThingsCon!
‘No-Code’ Brings the Power of A.I. to the Masses 
INTELLIGENCE – “A growing number of new products allow anyone to apply artificial intelligence without having to write a line of computer code. Proponents believe the “no-code” movement will change the world.”
Top 10 Ingenious Robotic Companies Making a Breakthrough in 2022
ROBOTICS – Write it down and come back en of the year… “Robotics industry is making rapid strides in robotics engineering, bringing innovative robots into the service. Robotics technology, unlike other technologies, has potential which is literally beyond human imagination.”
Video Teaching: The future is bright 
HYBRID – If you are into this; hybrid education. 4 higher education institutes shared experiences and tips. 
Copilot Is Like GPT-3 but for Code—Fun, Fast, and Full of Flaws 
AUTONOMOUS – GPT-3 for Code, is a nice high concept framing “OpenAI’s new tool can autocomplete lines of programming or conjure software from a simple prompt. It could also riddle the internet with even more bugs.”
The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto 
CRYPTO – I have read a nice short book by Kevin Roose before (Futureproof) so I might check this on too. To check if know everything already indeed…. “Crypto is a lot of things – including terribly explained. We’re here to clear things up.”
Tech Futurist at SXSW Predicts Gloomy Future · Dataetisk Tænkehandletank
FUTURING – It is a tradition I always respect: I download the trends and home to find some time to scroll through the variety of trends over 668 pages.To get a glimpse the video might work too.
Call for projects on value conflicts
CONNECTED – “This exhibition will gather diverse projects through a public call. Submission can cover real-world or speculative situations, ranging from more artistic demonstrations (e.g. short movies, artefacts) to technical and socio-technical approaches.”

Paper of this week

This paper by Kitchin is already some years old but the notion of the real-time city is very vivid still. I like also the concept that Kitchin introduced in their book code/space that is describing the situation we have grown into a digital layer that is defining the functioning of our cities.

Kitchin, R. (2014). The real-time city? Big data and smart urbanism. GeoJournal, 79(1), 1-14. PDF

Kitchin, R., & Dodge, M. (2014). Code/space: Software and everyday life. Mit Press. PDF

Michiel de Lange explored the concept further in this more recent work, connecting it to something he call asynchronicity.

De Lange, M. (2018). From real-time city to asynchronicity: Exploring the real-time smart city dashboard. In Time for mapping (pp. 238-255). Manchester University Press. PDF

“[He] attempted to approach real-time urban dashboards through the alternative notion of ‘asynchronicity’ as a way to reflect on temporality in mapping the city. Asynchronicity highlights latency, recurrence, deferred understanding and imperfections of the mediating process. It opens up a long-term, slow perspective of the future and a more citizen-centric view of the smart city.

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.