Weeknotes 196; ThingsCon recap

Hi all! Summer is nearing. And we are in a new peak event season, pre-summer is popular more than ever. The share of event-wallet is challenging next to a kind of unwary after two years of online gatherings. We experienced at ThingsCon last week how nice it is to be together in sessions sharing experiences and especially meeting each other in between. So we hope to be able to get back to the routine again with more events. The smaller size makes it even better, cozier, and more intense.

Speaking on ThingsCon, as I was going around dealing with production matters I could not experience the sessions myself. The wrap-up at the end showed however the learnings. We hope we can publish some impressions later. In a lot of sessions the relation between human and tech, from conversations with robots to concepts of trust, on an interaction level or philosophical, was covered. Justyna Zubrycka addressed a nice question to start with “How do we move about between the virtual and real-world so that our human experience is enriched instead of diminished?” She made references to the Japanese art of Mitate “the perception of an object in a non-habitual way, to contemplate an object as if it were something else in order to renew its meaning and experience”. Kris Vanherle showed with their Telraam open sensor solution how AI and sensing become part of the toolkit of a designer and maker of the currently connected devices, and what practical consequences it has.

At the exhibition, the animistic prototypes, AI mirror art installation and unintended consequences of smart objects, also illustrated a current phase in our relationship with intelligent technology that rules the physicality of things and vice versa; building on the ethical discussions we started in the earlier editions.

Events planned

This week I will attend some of The Next Web for old times’ sake. I have been visiting TNW since the second edition I think but skipped last year for the first time. The nature has changed a bit after it was sold to FT I think, but I am curious to find out if there is still a good social vibe, something that TNW for me always was known for; running into a lot of people from the digital community. We have good weather, that will help. INFO will do a session on digital twin with one of our clients Growy on Friday (14:40 at Growth quarters if you are there), with service designer Anandita presenting; looking forward to seeing that.

I do not see other events. CogX is happening in London if you are into that, Amsterdam Digital Society School has its yearly showcase on Wednesday.

I mentioned it last week, but definitely check out the program of Low Carbon Design Institute Residency 2022 talks this week with among others ThingsCon ‘alumni’ Chris Adams, Claire Rowland, Ugo Vallauri, and Ross Atkin. And closing keynote by Anab Jain & Jon Arden!

Looking ahead to next week, check out Dcode week “Design for Entangled Interactions”, the Urban Living Lab Summit 2022Mobility|Society Live and Metropolitan Mobility Conference. Clearly, a week where you will miss more than you will experience

News of last week

Intelligence and sentience. Learning experiences via interactions. Autonomous dialogues. And more.

This month’s Frame: boundary objects and decentralised innovation
WEB3 – What does the concept of Web3 do for innovation and creativitiy? “with Web3 first you find an audience and then build it together. It’s a reality which is incompatible with a top-down view of innovation. We need new ways to think about how innovation will develop. ”
We Asked an AI to Draw a Self-Portrait
INTELLIGENCE – Last week I shared the Dall-E Mini tool. It has gone viral, lots of people used it. Apart from the results and the quality compared to the original Dall-E 2, it is indeed mostly a learning experience: “Still, with OpenAI’s DALL-E still in closed beta testing, projects like DALL-E Mini are giving many people their first taste of human-AI artistic collaboration—and maybe, a glimpse into the future of the art world as we know it.”
Google suspends engineer who claims its AI is sentient 
INTELLIGENCE – Controversy on a claim by a Google engineer that AI is sentient. “The engineer’s concerns reportedly grew out of convincing responses he saw the AI system generating about its rights and the ethics of robotics.”
The Trust Issue | New_ Public Magazine
TRUSTABLE TECH – What is the role of trust in new technologies? A series of articles to dive into that concept. “Trust is an elusive variable that lies within most of the key questions about tech’s role in our lives. How do we know a machine, or program, will work as planned? How do we determine if someone online is who they claim to be? How can we make sure a digital space is truly safe? ”
Robot capable of ‘hearing’ after locust’s ear transplanted inside machine – Study Finds
ROBOTICS – Are we in the end -as part of nature- meant to contribute to the functioning of robotics? “Nature is much more advanced than we are, so we should use it. The principle we have demonstrated can be used and applied to other senses, such as smell, sight, and touch,”
Welcome to the summer of robots
ROBOTICS – As a reminder “We’re encountering lots more robots in our daily lives — delivering our food, pouring our drinks, mowing our lawns — but they’re just a small glimpse of what’s to come.”
Making robotic assistive walking more natural
BOOSTED HUMANS – It is indeed usually not a smoothly operating human-machine system now, these exoskeletons; I see pictures of Bezos in a machine-suit… So apparently useful research.“The resulting collaboration brings the AMBER lab a step closer to translating natural motion to a robotic assistive device like a prosthesis”
Connected vehicle, infrastructure data drives roadway safety 
SENSING CITY – Extending the low-level sensing of streets to indicate the number of vehicles passing apparently, with new forms of learning behavior and dialogs between city infrastructure and citythings… “Open-source software that collects data from infrastructure-based sensors and communicates with automated vehicles will help city planners improve safety at intersections.”
New Surrey research brings safer autonomous vehicles a step closer 
AUTONOMOUS – More tech in the quest for safer streets in a world where we delegate driving to machines. “Award-winning research from the University of Surrey that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to instantly and accurately translate two-dimensional images into a bird’s-eye view map faster, brings the prospect of safer autonomous vehicles closer to reality.”
CMU Researchers Use AI To Teach Robots To See Water
ROBOTICS – Did not realize before this was an issue. “Water presents a tricky challenge for robots because it is clear.” Good to have robots been able to poor our glasses!
Scientists in China have successfully cloned pigs using only AI in a world first
MORE-THAN-LIFE – “A team of researchers from the College of Artificial Intelligence at Nankai University in China has developed a fully automated method to create pig clones. For the first time, seven healthy cloned piglets were born to a surrogate mother in March without any human intervention using the same method. ”This sets new questions about transparency and contestability in AI systems…
Gone in 130 seconds: New Tesla hack gives thieves their own personal key 
SECURITY – An example how hacking software is now directly linked to our physical world. “Last year, Tesla issued an update that made its vehicles easier to start after being unlocked with their NFC key cards. Now, a researcher has shown how the feature can be exploited to steal cars.”
Introducing GTGraffiti: The Robot That Paints Like a Human 
HUMAN TECH – The returning quest of creating machines that can mimic humans. It might learn us something about ourselves. In the end I am more interested to the machine style of graffiti. “Graduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology have built the first graffiti-painting robot system that mimics the fluidity of human movement.” 
Apple’s ‘Pay Later’ Is the Latest Plea for Your Loyalty 
DIGITAL AGENCY – “Apple’s introduction of a credit card in 2019 was the first step: Apple not only wanted to be the recipient of your money, it wanted to have a hand in how you manage that money.”It is all about agency of our life and living…
WWDC 2022: Why Apple’s influence on Matter is a win for all smart homes 
SMART HOME – Another analysis of the new introductions of last Apple’s WWDC “Essentially, Matter is a win all around for Apple, HomeKit users, and even to a lesser degree, non-HomeKit users. Greater device compatibility will bring more choices for how to equip your smart home and you’ll get some of that HomeKit experience even if you don’t have an Apple device.”
Bluetooth Signals Can be Used to Identify and Track Smartphones
SURVEILLANCE – Fingerprinting by using glitches, is intriguing. And discomforting too. “All wireless devices have small manufacturing imperfections in the hardware that is unique to each device. These fingerprints are an accidental byproduct of the manufacturing process. These imperfections in Bluetooth hardware result in unique distortions, which can be used as a fingerprint to track a specific device.”
Baidu & Geely Reveal JIDU ROBO-01 Autonomous Vehicle Design 
AUTONOMOUS – “JIDU’s car was built from the ground up to be a fully autonomous vehicle. It has a steering wheel, but it folds away under the dash to make for more interior room when it drives itself.”Apart from the opinion about the looks of this design, it is striking to see how the car is communicating with its outside surroundings. This is an important aspect of course when we will live together with autonomous deciding machines. Also; who else has to think about KITT?

Paper for the week

To relate a bit to the Low Carbon design, in this paper data encounters are researched as part of the increasing acknowledgment of the role of residents in the success of low- or zero-energy renovations. It feels like an applicable paper.

We find data encounters that involve more than displays and technical devices. Residents use bodily senses, information from other people, and complex contextual information to understand indoor climate and energy consumption.

van Beek, E., & Boess, S. (2022). Data encounters in renovated homes: Sense-making beyond displays. CLIMA 2022 Conferencehttps://doi.org/10.34641/clima.2022.101

Find more here.

Enjoy the 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.