Weeknotes 188; little signals and home robotics

Hello all. I hope you had a pleasant Easter time. Here we had an extra day off on Monday dedicated to Easter brunches and enjoying a warm spring day. Biking around Amsterdam Noord, to experience the new developments of Buiksloterham and around, that I can see from home on the other side of the river IJ. It is changing fast. It left a bit less time than usual to go through the captured news items…

Last week was quite a regular mix of planning and updating on the field labs, and sitting with students to check their progress. Like the technical informatics student team (University from Applied Sciences Amsterdam) working on a project to dive into interactions with vocal things based on applied AI. Work on the organizing for ThingsCon too.

Events for this week

Last week I did not manage to visit an event, meetup or else. Not sure if the calendar and todo-list will allow it this week, but here are some things that caught my attention:

News of last week

Some interesting articles again. Our relation to intelligence, and what is the robot in our home…

Robots are learning to think like humans. Can they meet Amazon’s demands for speed?
ROBOTICS – “As the robots play, the researchers who built them are learning more about how they work, how they think and where they have room to grow.”
Does this artificial intelligence think like a human?
INTELLIGENCE – “A new technique compares the reasoning of a machine-learning model to that of a human, so the user can see patterns in the model’s behavior.”
Podcast: What do you want in a home robot? 
ROBOTICS – I discussed the reviews of Amazon’s new home robot last week. It is clearly not the logical device yet. And Stacey makes a good point to discuss: should we add a robot to the home, or is the home our robot? 
Little Signals
SMART HOME – Google is also exploring what the interaction with our smart home is all about.
“A series of interaction experiments to help us feel connected and calm.”Little Signals considers new patters for technology in our daily lives.
The General Purpose Pendulum 
TRENDS – We may be watching one of computing’s longest-term trends turn around, becoming the technological equivalent of Foucault’s very long, slow pendulum: the trend towards generalization.
Robots are creating images and telling jokes. 5 things to know about foundation models and the next generation of AI
ROBOTICS – “New software that can generate images and text on command may deliver ‘good enough’ creativity in advertising, copywriting, stock imagery and graphic design.”
RoboCT brings in $15M for robotic exoskeletons
BOOSTED HUMANS – “RobotCT’s UGO exoskeleton robot helps patients who experience motor dysfunction in the lower body learn how to walk.”
This month’s Frame: How art theory helps us understand the future of the metaverse
META – “What could be an alternative way of thinking about the metaverse experience as a sensible experience? The French philosopher Jacques Ranciere’s theory about the relationship between communities and aesthetics might help to shine a more nuanced light on future metaverses”
The Boneyard Principle: Why the Next Big Thing will Emerge from a Failed Idea 
DESIGN – The inverse of first mover advantage? “Most successful consumer social products walk through a boneyard of failures before achieving victory. Before TikTok came Vine, before Tinder came Match.com, and before Instagram and Snap came Flickr. Each of these groups shared the similar high-level ideas of social video, dating, or social photos. But the boneyard often hid big ideas in plain sight.”
“Friends, Musk/Twitter headlines are all variants of ‘what will Elon do?’ It’s a signal of how lost we are. We obsess over one man and his whims because we don’t yet have the democratic rule of law needed to govern our information spaces. Without law power is dangerous.🧵[1/8]”
DIGITAL LIFE – Is Twitter a public space that needs public governance and ownership? And what does that say about the plas of Elon Musk? Shoshana Zuboff is sharing her thoughts, always good to check.
Bosch ramps up automated vehicle efforts with Five acquisition
AUTONOMOUS – Ramping up? Consolidation “The move will bolster Bosch’s presence in the autonomous vehicle market.”
Self-driving cars can be tricked into seeing red traffic lights as green
AUTONOMOUS – Never a dull moment… “Aiming lasers at the cameras used in driverless cars caused them to incorrectly interpret red traffic lights as green 30 per cent of the time”
Gartner’s market guide to vehicle routing and scheduling systems
LAST MILE – “Last-mile delivery solutions are an evolution of VRS, grown due to the huge increase in e-commerce and last-mile operations. Whereas traditional routing solutions focused primarily on fleets and movements for the first mile, middle mile, and last mile to businesses, these new last-mile delivery solutions mainly focus on making deliveries to consumers and improving the consumer experience.”
Two versions of the trolley problem elicit similar responses everywhere
INTELLIGENCE – (…) there are not a lot of conclusions that can be reached from this work, despite the impressive amount of effort that went into it. One of the things that is clear is that it’s difficult to study the trolley problem, since most people seem to either already know about it or struggle to understand it when given an explanation with the level of detail you’d expect from a survey

Paper for this week

I keep this short, and look at an oldie. Not so long ago this video of a short presentation on the key role of systems by Ackoff. As a good professor there is also a lot of literature. The paper below is from 1994, very relevant still. He wrote several books and specific framings later. It is relevant even before our current impact of technology as it was pre-consumer-internet. The thinking is very relevant, and it connects to the beliefs on Cities of Things that it should be seen as an assemblage of connected objects and the relations are key here.

Ackoff, R. L. (1994). Systems thinking and thinking systems. System Dynamics Review , 10 (2‐3), 175-188.

Find the 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.