Weeknotes 185; quantum and (retiring) robotics

Hi all! Welcome to edition 185 of this installment of the weeknotes, for some time now published every Tuesday morning early. 

Last week I had a short week as I took two days off for a round trip in the Dutch hills in Limburg. Just after we had a workshop organized as part of the field lab Cities of Things MUC-AMS(Munich Amsterdam). The field lab is in the planning stage in the sense that we are developing a vision and concept for a bottom-up intelligence-driven platform for neighborhoods to manage local logistics and buffer storage.

We had a really nice session where we presented the vision to stakeholders and partners in both Amsterdam and Munich and discussed the key characteristics to start this as a pilot later this year. What are the right questions to address? How to design for the people by the people of a neighborhood? Who to involve to start building the pilot.

Central in the session was a visualization of the vision; the Collect|Connect Community Hub, positioned in two Amsterdam neighborhoods. We went home with some concrete possible next steps and contacts to realize the plans. Next up will be a further iteration and a workshop on 16 May in Munich to connect to the local stakeholders even more. I keep you posted!

Yesterday I presented to about 100 students of Avans University of Applied Sciences on the design of systems and connected products. The coordinator of the course “Integrated Smart Systems” invited me to share my views. I have been doing this for the last 5 years and it is always nice to see what the students come up with after 4 weeks of designing in teams on this topic.

As we are planning ThingsCon this year in June (9 & 10) we make even more connections to the student program we always organize. The 2022 theme of the “Physical Twin” fits the course very well. Later this week we will share more on the program of ThingsCon and open the early bird registration.

Plans for this week (and beyond)

The other field lab project Cities of Things Lab010 is in full swing with Demie working on the first design for the toolkit and the group of TI students working on prototypes for wizard-of-oz testing of citythings on the streets. Next week we will use the same prototypes in the IoT Rotterdam 2022 hackathon on 8 April. We invite the participants to rapid prototype possible self-moving objects with these platforms and test them out on the streets. That promises to be a super nice experience for the participants and also for us to see how it evolves. Check out the website of IoT Rotterdam for more information and registration!

Some events that look interesting are this one by the Civic Interaction Design research group of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences on Neighborhood resilience in practice on Thursday evening, The Hmm is doing a hybrid event too on how a lighter internet can be more accessible and sustainable on Wednesday evening. Aitech Agora will discuss personal autonomy in Human-AI Interaction with a talk by Chao Zhang, assistant prof TU/e during Wednesday lunch.

News of last week

Let’s dive into the news of last week, on quantum and (retiring) robotics and broken promises.

Honda’s Asimo robot to retire after 20-year career wowing public
ROBOTICS – End of an era: “Since its debut in 2000, Asimo has become a symbol of Japan’s pioneering robot technology, mastering the abilities to run, hop on one leg, speak sign language using five fingers and pour coffee into a paper cup from a tumbler.”Will there be the successor? The Tesla humanoid? (car companies investing in human robots are not that new)
Robots for folding laundry at home: two approaches 
ROBOTICS – Matt is wondering why robotics in the home environment is not happening despite all predictions and promises. The same goes for 3D printing which was projected as the next printer in everybody’s home. There it became clear that the balance of costs and use cases was more suitable for 3D shops (hubs). Good to check what are the drivers for robotics indeed: “There’s an interesting paper to be written on why innovation like this isn’t happening.”
An Interview with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang about Manufacturing Intelligence – Stratechery by Ben Thompson
INTELLIGENCE – Ben Thompson interviewed Jensen of NVIDIA, the big player in machine learning hardware. “The deliberateness of Nvidia’s vision is one of the core themes I explored in this interview with Huang recorded shortly after his GTC keynote.”
Waymo set to launch fully driverless vehicle service in San Francisco
AUTONOMOUS – Step by step we are entering the next iteration of mobility… “Last August, Waymo started a test program that offered free, autonomous-taxi rides to select users in San Francisco, with safety drivers behind the wheel…”.
Startup Says Its Tech Can Inflict Actual Pain in the Metaverse
REALITY – Some years ago I followed the haptics and touch research more closely. One of the examples was a pain-triggering wristband to stimulate behavior. Kind of dubious of course. Now we are entering the era of metaverse (aka virtual world-making) with the more and more physical expression of digital experiences. The whole spectrum… “A Japanese startup wants you to be able to feel pain inside the metaverse through a wristband that electrically stimulates its wearer’s muscles.”
World’s First Wall Painting Robot – MYRO – GineersNow
ROBOTICS – Sometimes you wonder if it really the first time for this type of machine; painting autonomously… “In recent years, robots and AI have opened up new growth opportunities and penetrated every sector. Businesses are now shifting from static in-place automation to dynamic out-there intelligent connected machines. They are looking for solutions that can minimize cost and increase productivity.”
Quantum computing has a hype problem 
DISPOSITION – “As a buzzword, quantum computing probably ranks only below AI in terms of hype. Large tech companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft now have substantial research and development efforts in quantum computing. A host of startups have sprung up as well, some boasting staggering valuations.” Is the hype real?
Internet-connected “smart” traps help cities combat rats
CO-PERFORMANCE – An interesting example of how ubiquitous intelligence as an “add-on” of ling existing crafts become a new standard. And nice how it is framed as the combination of digital automation and professional expertise, aka co-performance… “Internet-connected rat traps are bringing rodent control into the 21st century, helping cities leverage data in the battle against rats.”
Yuga Labs’ Bored Apes are entering the metaverse
CRYPTIC – Is it me or is this just a sign of the quest for making sense with new tech? Is the interoperability of your NFTs necessary to make it sensible to invest in, or will it really be part of your digital identity that needs expression everywhere to validate?“The company intends to use the money from its latest funding round to bring its NFTs to the metaverse.”
Study Says Tesla the Most-Trusted Brand to Develop Autonomous Vehicles 
AUTONOMOUS – Good for them. Building a reputation out of a promise was not more than an ambition. But still, I had to think about the research David Valentine did on trust for autonomous vehicles, and how that is defined as an important part of the reputation ahead of use.“Beating 55 other car companies and tech firms, drivers trust this trendsetting automaker the most to develop self-driving cars.”

Paper of this week

On Twitter I was pointed to an interesting paper on human autonomy in the age of artificial intelligence.

Prunkl, C. (2022). Human autonomy in the age of artificial intelligence. Nature Machine Intelligence4 (2), 99-101.

Current AI policy recommendations differ on what the risks to human autonomy are. To systematically address risks to autonomy, we need to confront the complexity of the concept itself and adapt governance solutions accordingly

That is an interesting approach I think indeed. The author is deconstructing autonomy into agency and authenticity.

The uncertainty and complexity that surrounds ethical and social impacts of emerging technologies poses significant challenges to those involved in the governance process. Tackling these challenges requires us to be clear on what it is we are concerned about in the first place. Only then can we begin putting in place adequate governance mechanisms that prevent and mitigate potential negative impacts.

Find the paper PDF here.

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.