Weeknotes 186; robot as best friend

Hi all! Another week with terrible images of a war that feels only to ramp up… Images that will be hard to unsee, I’m afraid. I also found this video on “How Kyiv lives under the Russian siege” impressive, not with graphic images but with the sneaking-up impact.

Switching back to daily life here as you do. Relations of human and nonhumans in presenting on integrated systems for the Avans students on Monday. And shaping the ThingsCon Summer Edition on the physical twin, visiting the new location, sending out a newsletter, and opening the early bird ticket sales.

Continuing organizing the hackathon for this Friday during IoT Rotterdam, preparing for a fun experience that will teach about people’s interactions and smart urban-things (register to join here). Looking back at the MUCAMS session and planning for the session at MCBW in Munich.

Looking into the further future by visiting the Superflux exhibition, see below.

Events to check

This is the last week you can visit the exhibition/installation by Superflux in Droog in Amsterdam. I just took a little walk from the INFO office and finally had a look at myself. If you are familiar with the work of Superflux and the impactful presentations and videos, you will probably like it, only for the feeling of seeing the probs in real. If you are new, don’t hesitate to check out that videos. In the end, the videos are the work to experience even more than the installation imho.

Maybe a nice topic for the General Seminar of this week, late Wednesday evening, “Design Fiction WTF”.

I will be joining some of STRP on Thursday. Expect some serious reflections there too. James Bridle is one of my favorite artists discussing the impact of tech on life and society; he is part of the expo and will give a talk at “Scenario”-event.

Not enough on dark futures? Probably a good panel though to discuss the Apocalypse at the faculty of architecture in Delft.

News of last week

Some weeks there is much more that passed the filter than on other weeks. This is a week with a lot I captured, so I skip some like new smart-glasses and Spot applications. Two articles on new visual sensoring to replace Lidar: from Duke researchers and Stanford researchers. And if you want to recap the robots of March, find a top 10 list here.

You’ll Never Have a Robot Best Friend
ROBOTICS – Can we have robots as friends? The author is making the case this is unlike in near future. But what is a friend here? Can we have a friendly relationship with our helpful robotic partner-in-crime?“Consumers won’t buy robots unless they’re either cheap and dumb or extremely useful. That’s the rule iRobot and its successful Roomba line live by. At the other end are impossibly sophisticated and experimental robots that exist mostly for demonstration (and slowly for enterprise-level utility) like all the robots from Hyundai’s Boston Dynamics robots.”
Slime robot controlled by magnets could be used inside the body
ROBOTICS – Much more interesting than the next humanoid: the magnetic slime robot.“Slime that can be controlled by a magnetic field can navigate tight spaces and grasp objects, making it ideal for possible uses inside the body”
Can Controlling Vehicles Make Streets Safer and More Climate Friendly?
INFRASTRUCTURE – Interesting aspect of this research into applying geofencing as a technology for reshaping the city fabric in a different way, adding different contracts to the equation.“Geofencing can also contribute to city spaces being used more dynamically, Ms. Stoldt said. “Areas can easily be changed and used for different purposes depending on the time of the day or the season.””
Russia Inches Toward Its Splinternet Dream 
INFRASTRUCTURE – We have been disillusioned before in the liberating power of the democratizing power of an open internet; dictators appear to use the same characteristics to break the openness so often… Cynically the closed gardens are driver of this.“For years, the country has been trying to create its own sovereign internet—a goal given new impetus by the backlash to its invasion of Ukraine.”
This Is What Happens When Globalization Breaks Down 
INFRASTRUCTURE – I put this on my reading list for the moment I want to explore the world supply chain “The story of one shipping container from a factory in China to a warehouse in the United States traces the arc of a global supply chain consumed by trouble.”
Researchers enable robot to manipulate dough
CO-PERFORMANCE – I had an intern from Italy some years ago that explored the design principles for Internet of Things. He modeled his concepts around the kitchen and especially the dough. It is also a great subject of prototyping co-performance of robot-students and teachers….“A new technique could enable a robot to manipulate squishy objects like pizza dough or soft materials like clothing.”
The Face Stares Back
HUMAN-NONHUMAN – “I noted previously that the attention of a machine bearing down on us generates an experience of the uncanny gaze. Borrowing Clive Thompson’s framing of the eeriness of captcha images being a function of how they force us to see the world through a non-human perspective, I suggested that being subjected to a non-human gaze generates an analogous uneasiness.”
useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
POST INDUSTRIAL – Intriguing work by artists Elmgreen & Dragset discussing the future role of our bodies in a changing balance of digital an physical… “By slightly altering familiar, everyday objects, these works y encourage a re-evaluation of the ordinary and highlight how we negotiate the control mechanisms embedded in public spaces.”
A Robot Penguin Just Jump-Roped Its Way to a Guinness World Record 
ROBOT FUN – Fun to watch the moves too. “We see people breaking old Guinness World Records and making new ones nearly every day, but how often do robots set new records? An adorable Japanese penguin robot just set a new Guinness World Record for the most skips by a robot in one minute, and we’re impressed.”
Artificial intelligence beats eight world champions at bridge
INTELLIGENCE – Is this a next phase of AI development where realtime partnership of the intelligence with the human is key? “Victory marks milestone for AI as bridge requires more human skills than other strategy games”
Smarty Pear Leo’s Loo Too Review: A Feature-Packed Automatic Litter Box
PHYSICAL TWIN – Without we know we arrive in the mundane smart. Mundane and useful, smartness as basic design material. Or is this too much honor for an intelligent cat toilet? “Give up scooping with this automatic litter box and stay on top of your cat’s health for all nine lives.”
Giant cyborg cockroach could be the best search-and-rescue bot
NONHUMAN – Will this improve the image of the cockroach? “A team of engineers at Singapore has roboticized live cockroaches in an effort to improve search-and-rescue operations.”
Credit card-sized device focuses terahertz energy to generate high-resolution images
HIGH TECH – Not sure what the application would be so it might be an interesting technology. Think energy beams… “The advance may enable real-time imaging devices that are smaller, cheaper, and more robust than other systems.”
Elevating the Helium Network with New Helium Inc Name & Series D 
INFRASTRUCTURE – The Helium network for a blockchain based IoT connecting network is around for some time. What will the rebranding mean for the popularity? “With this name change, we aim to provide a clearer distinction between our corporate entity and the open-sourced Helium Network that is owned and operated by the people, and unite the Helium Community under a shared brand.”
What’s the Matter? We Explain the New Smart Home Standard
MUNDANE SMART – It used to be CHIP, a new standard by several different brands to speed up the smart home development. It became Matter, it passed this newsletter before. Wired has a nice overview on all ins and outs. “The open source standard called Matter makes sure that your devices play nicely. Here’s how it could change how you shop for and use them.”
Dyson launches Zone air purifying Bluetooth headphones with visor 
AUGMENTED LIFE – We live our life more and more filtered… “Company’s first wearable delivers personal pocket of filtered air and cancels unwanted noise”
AI Adoption in the Enterprise 2022 
INTELLIGENCE – Some data on the adoption of AI in enterprises. That seems not to change a lot over the years. “Are companies farther along in AI adoption? Do they have working applications in production? Are they using tools like AutoML to generate models, and other tools to streamline AI deployment?”
Popular blockchain game Axie Infinity suffers a $625 million exploit, possibly the largest in defi history
CRYPTO LIFE – We will keep getting these kind of hacks now and then. It does not seem to influence the value of the crypto now…“One of the most popular play-to-earn games, Axie Infinity, suffered an enormous hack to the Ronin network on which it runs.”
I don’t believe in Zoom fatigue. HOWEVER… 
INFRASTRUCTURE – If you need someone to talk on the metaverse, Matt is the one to check out, here another nice exploration: “I.E. IN A NUTSHELL: presence can be exhausting”

Paper of this week

The research of Kars Alfrink is very related to the topics this newsletter is addressing, I think, I mentioned it before in edition 176. Now he has a first journal article published on “Tensions in transparent urban AI” connected to the case of designing a smart electric vehicle charging point”:

The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) by public actors has led to a push for more transparency. Previous research has conceptualized AI transparency as knowledge that empowers citizens and experts to make informed choices about the use and governance of AI. Conversely, in this paper, we critically examine if transparency-as-knowledge is an appropriate concept for a public realm where private interests intersect with democratic concerns. We conduct a practice-based design research study in which we prototype and evaluate a transparent smart electric vehicle charge point, and investigate experts’ and citizens’ understanding of AI transparency.

Alfrink, K., Keller, I., Doorn, N., & Kortuem, G. (2022). Tensions in transparent urban AI: designing a smart electric vehicle charge point. AI & SOCIETY, 1-17. 

The article dives in the role of transparency with the application of AI and the critiques. The paper reflects on three tensions constructed from a comparison between the two groups of narrative themes. These are: (1) information quality over quantity; (2) level of concern; (3) sense of control.

Find PDF here.

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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.