Weeknotes 194; robots go home

Hi all! Weeks are passing by like days… The experience of organizing a conference like ThingsCon is always a similar process. You run always into a lot more work in the end. You tend to forget to amount of work as soon as the event is over and you got all the energy out of it. This rush started this year a bit earlier as we have that special Summer Edition planned as an event on 10 June. So check it out and join us. Read this newsletter with the latest news and special deals.

What else happened last week?

I went to a symposium (part of it) about usage-driven personal mobility services at TU Delft. Always insightful to see some of the research work done. It triggered some questions on the premisses of MaaS (Mobility as a Service) apps, which are designed with the idea that the problem to solve of planning of door to door routes is mostly about the uniformity of the app, having one app for all, with one ticket etc. The use of the current apps is very low as it is not solving real problems yet… Interesting insights are however that there is a chance that the last mile electric vehicles are replacing the wrong modes of transportation; walking and biking instead of car use.

I also had a session with the CMD Advisory board of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Which was a nice and open discussion on learning goals and more. Keep your eye on their Golden Dots party this year which celebrates 20 years of CMD.

podcast tip; Kevin Roose is a NYT journalist that has written a good book –Futureproof– on our relation to AI developments. I read it before, it is quite compact. In the podcast he had a nice conversation with Scott Galloway discussing his framing: we need technology that makes us more human. I really feel for his analysis that replacing human activities with AI and robotics will happen fast then we think as the tipping point is not one way the robots become humanlike, but we also grow into habits to adapt to machine learning behavior closing the gap. We should focus on what makes us different, and build valuable relations in that with tech.

What if the internet is generated 99% by AI tools? How are we going to find the human content?

Events this week

As mentioned last week; I will join as much as possible Micromobility Europe. Curious to see if this delivers new insights and inspiration. There might be some side events in the slipstream. Like this party by BinBin scooters. And like the inaugural address of Marco te Brömmelstroet on Friday on Urban Mobility Futures.

End of today there is a new event by the Billion Seconds Institute on “Decoding the futures of Responsible AI systems

And next Monday the WWDC will inspire speculations for the next features and devices of Apple. Will RealityOS be introduced?

And looking for updates on the Dutch media and metaverse, check next Tuesday’s Cross Media Cafe (Dutch).

And now for the news of last week

The weekly dose of robotics, autonomous systems, and critical tech reflections.

Dyson has been secretly building robots 
HOMEBOTICS – Silently more and more options arrive to the market for the companion robots, the cobots. “Today at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia, Dyson revealed “secret robot prototypes” that are part of broader research.”techcrunch.com  •  Share
NY State is giving out hundreds of robots as companions for the elderly – The Verge
ROBOTICS – “Deploying robots for elderly care is often controversial. Advocates say robots are a necessary tool, especially when humans aren’t available. Critics warn machines have the potential to dehumanize their users, and their deployment reflects the low value society places on older adults.”In the end, it is about intentions. I tend to be critical as soon as the robots try to be human instead of trying to be what they are: robot companions.www.theverge.com  •  Share
Samsung Seeks FDA Approval for Wearable Exoskeleton Robot – IoT World Today
ROBOT FEAR – Should we really be more afraid for humanoids or for exo-humans? “Samsung is anticipating an August commercial launch of GEMS Hip”www.iotworldtoday.com  •  Share
Researchers develop algorithm to divvy up tasks for human-robot teams 
ROBOTICS – teams are the future! “Researchers have developed an algorithmic planner that helps delegate tasks to humans and robots. The planner, ‘Act, Delegate or Learn’ (ADL), considers a list of tasks and decides how best to assign them. The researchers asked three questions: When should a robot act to complete a task? When should a task be delegated to a human? And when should a robot learn a new task?”www.sciencedaily.com  •  Share
The first wave of urban robots is here
ROBOTICS – “The robot takeover is here – and it’s kinda cute.” This latter statement is interesting. The autonomous delivery cart is conceptual quite identical to manufacturers, and the difference would be in the digital service mainly. Is the appearance part of that or another layer/lens?www.freethink.com  •  Share
Robot that can do laundry by itself will help test washing machines | New Scientist
COMPLICATOR – Such a robot arm feels like a complicator; a solution for a problem that is more complex than the problem it is trying to solve. A strategy to deal with that of course can be to add more complexity in the problem… “A completely automated system for using a washing machine, from loading to unloading, is already being used for appliance tests by one manufacturer”www.newscientist.com  •  Share
Surrender and Assimilation
INTELLIGENCE – The pieces by Vankatesh are extensive and intelligent, super interesting to dive into. Hard to follow the production.. I need still to dive deeper into the graph mind series, this new addition has again an intriguing proposition: “The very first time I sat down to brainstorm graph minds, within minutes, it struck me that a key feature, perhaps the key feature, is that a collective intelligence, like a cult, is something you surrender to.”studio.ribbonfarm.com  •  Share
Imagen: Text-to-Image Diffusion Models
VIRTUAL AUTHENTICITY – So Google is jumping the band wagon Dall-E 2 got a lot of attention with. “unprecedented photorealism x deel level of language understanding”imagen.research.google  •  Share
New countermeasure against unwanted wireless surveillance 
SECURITY – Countering security issues with spying on wifi through a physical barrier instead of trusting software-based encryption… Interesting choice.“To counter this method known as “adversarial wireless sensing”, the team investigated the use of Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces (IRS). IRS are considered a forward-looking technology for establishing intelligent wireless environments: here, many reflective elements are distributed over a surface and their reflective behavior can be individually and electronically adjusted.”news.rub.de  •  Share
Ethereum’s cofounder says we’ll soon use ‘soulbound tokens’ to verify things like school and employment — all stored in a ‘souls’ wallet
CRYPTO LIFE – Are we approaching peak decentralized society if the equivalent of the Klout score for social media is now translated into NFTs? “SBTs are non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that a person can earn based in part on their job and education history. Unlike regular NFTs, they’re non-transferable (though people can revoke them if they choose.) SBTs would represent a person’s reputation and accomplishments, a kind of “extended resume,” Buterin wrote.“www.businessinsider.com  •  Share
Storage wars: the structures that house forgotten objects – Architectural Review
CITIES – In our MUC AMS proposal for a neighborhood community hub we took local logistics as a starting point: buffer storage. In the US is the situation always a bit more extreme “The growing need for self-storage disfigures cities and exposes housing precarity, upholding the promise of a life that will remain out of reach”www.architectural-review.com  •  Share
Everyday Experiments
HACKING – I like the work of oio.studio as rethinkers of design for an AI world.
Hacking IKEA as a concept is not new and is an inspiration for a long time; we did some thoughts in the lab back in 2013 on social media-related platforms and -uhum- Google Glass. This Updatables project is ticking a lot of boxes on reconnecting to the furniture for life. “How will tomorrow’s technologies redefine the way we live at home?”everydayexperiments.com  •  Share
An Autonomous Car Blocked a Fire Truck Responding to an Emergency 
AUTONOMOUS – The Cruise Autonomous service is is exploring all edge cases… “The incident in San Francisco cost first responders valuable time, and underscores the challenges Cruise and other companies face in launching driverless taxis.”www.wired.com  •  Share

Paper for the week

Sometimes a title for a paper can be as long as the summary: A Psychological Ownership Based Design Tool to Close the Resource Loop in Product Service Systems: A Bike Sharing Case

Not really of course; check the abstract. In the research “the central question was whether and how designers can be supported with a design tool, based on psychological ownership, to involve users in closing the loop activities. We developed a PSS design tool based on psychological ownership literature and implemented it in a range of design iterations. This resulted in ten design proposals and two implemented design interventions.”

“Our evaluation resulted in suggestions for revising the psychological ownership design tool, including adding ‘Giving Feedback’ to the list of affordances, prioritizing ‘Enabling’ and ‘Simplification’ over others and recognize a reciprocal relationship between service provider and service user when closing the loop activities.”

I spoke to the author some time ago on the broader research, and I am curious to read what the findings are for this part…

Ploos van Amstel D, Kuijer L, van der Lugt R, Eggen B. A Psychological Ownership Based Design Tool to Close the Resource Loop in Product Service Systems: A Bike Sharing Case. Sustainability . 2022; 14(10):6207. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14106207*

Find the paper here

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Iskander Smit is an innovation 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, and chairman and organizer of ThingsCon Netherlands.