Weeknotes 199; insightful robots

Hi all! One of the last weeks before the big vacation stop. Not for this newsletter though and just like TV is adapting to remote living and continuous accessibility to media, I am curious to see if there is a dip in reading here.

Anything noticeable last week?

We had a very insightful session with the people of Afrikaanderwijk for the Citylab 010 project of Cities of Things. And also had some good meetings for both the Amsterdam and Munich part of the MUC AMS project. And we discussed DLTs for resource communities in the context of a research project of AUAS

I attended the public lectures that is part of the inaugural ceremony of professors of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences Tomasz Jaskiewicz (partner in crime for C010 project) and Anja Overdiek. Both dealing with forms of co-design, participatory design, with different lenses: Civic Prototyping and Cybersocial design. Their publications are worth reading, I will share the links as soon as they are online.

In other news: who is surprised by the tactics of Uber? The research is impressive but we knew already of the geofencing in the apps to mislead regulators. But maybe it is a logical segway into the promises of Web3 I’m now diving into (more) for a research project. It is nice to listen and read back on the intentions of a different model of ownership and control and the hope to break the power of dominant platform makers such as Uber. We are just at the beginning of a hopefully near future where the promises become also tangible and applicable for the general users…

Helped with sentient and emotional AI. Who knows. The podcasts of Lex Fridman are always that long; I usually have to listen at different moments. This one with the CEO of Deepmind was worth it.

Events to join

It is vacation time. You can plan for the end of August or even September (NEXTPRIMER).

News of last week

No lack of news in tech. Uber, Twitter (or better Musk). And a lot of insightful articles on robotics, and artificial.

Robot Might Recreate the Elgin Marbles of Greece 
ARTIFICIAL – Is it art? “The British Museum has staunchly refused to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. A team of archaeologists are working on a technological solution to the dispute.”
I imagine cave paintings as ancient virtual reality 
REALITY – “The image of shamans twisted at the rocky cave-wall interface, traveling in the realm beyond the membrane, reminds me of nothing so much as, well, me, hunched over my smartphone, unnaturally contorted to jab with my thumbs, an overwhelming feeling of being elsewhere, the screen a veil and on the other side a world that I can visit but can never stay in, my eyes blind to the physical room and others here.”Comparing a prehistorical rock drawing with VR is not over-romantic but is making a sharp image of the essence of VR and what a design for reality representations should focus on and judge by; is it bringing you into another reality…
Review: ‘Westworld’ Has Entered the New, Better Frontier of Sci-Fi 
SERIES – I do not dare to read this article, I still need to start with the new Westworld seasosn. Happy to see though that this one seems better than than the last one… “The show’s fourth season is blessedly more compelling, and comprehensible, than its third—and signals a subtle shift in its genre.”
It’s Not Too Late to Save the Metaverse
META LIFE – Does it need to be saved? “There’s an opportunity to build joyful communities in VR. Just protect individual rights—and keep out the crypto.”
We Ask An Actual AV Engineer Why Two Recent Tesla FSD Videos Show Such Dumb, Dangerous Mistakes 
AUTONOMOUS – The flaws of autopilot systems are a source of popular youtubees, I shared other before. This one is not promising too…
Piestro Dumps Kiwibot for Serve 
ROBOTICS – The future is now, and the future is about “an end-to-end automated pizza buying+delivery experience.”
Cruise’s Robot Car Outages Are Jamming Up San Francisco
AUTONOMOUS – There you have it; the new autonomous fellow drivers are flocking and blocking streets just like any other. Or worse…. “In a series of incidents, the GM subsidiary lost contact with its autonomous vehicles, leaving them frozen in traffic and trapping human drivers.”
Designing Arithmetic Circuits with Deep Reinforcement Learning 
MOORE – The main gist here is – I think – that new ways of thinking are necessary to keep up with Moore’s Law. “Learn how NVIDIA researchers use AI to design better arithmetic circuits that power our AI chips.”On the other hand; is Moore the ruling for value?
Smart cars are on the radar: Automatic object recognition and tracking using lidar
AUTONOMOUS – It is like a Two Minute Paper video: “the new AI method is 30% better…” (or something. “Research in the SPIE Journal of Electronic Imaging describes an innovative take on laser radar systems for smart cars outperforms camera-based object recognition.”
Smart textiles sense how their users are moving 
TWINNING – Create a digital twin of your walking… “MIT Media Lab researchers developed a novel fabrication process to create smart textiles that comfortably and snugly fit the user’s body, enabling very precise pressure sensor data that can be used to analyze”
Shenzhen gives green light to fully autonomous vehicles –
AUTONOMOUS – Kinda surprise this was not the case yet… “Shenzhen gives green light to fully autonomous vehicles Asia News Network (ANN)”
Data as the New Soil, Not Oil 
META LIFE – I did not have the time to read all of the conversation. The promise triggers curiosity “A conversation with futurist Jerry Michalski about how we need to build a “betterverse,” not the metaverse.“Are we striving for an alternative reality or a flight for reality? And what is better anyhow?
New 3-D printing technique can make autonomous robots in a single step –
ROBOTICS – Stacking buzz… Would there be a moment that 3D printing is mundane enough that is it is not the unnecessary trigger? “A new one-step method for 3-D printing allowed UCLA researchers to create robots that can walk, jump and sense their surroundings.”
Human-Like Robots May Be Perceived As Having Mental States 
ROBOTICS – Design input for robot designers: “According to Wykowska, these findings show that people might be more likely to believe artificial intelligence is capable of independent thought when it creates the impression that it can behave just like humans. This could inform the design of social robots of the future, she said.”
Meta Releases Open Source AI Machine Translation Model 
INTELLIGENCE – So you thought Meta stands for the metaverse. Or is more about a meta reality, a meta layer, like for languages? “In a project called “No Language Left Behind,” Meta has built an artificial intelligence model — NLLB-200 — that can translate text across 200 different languages. Modelling techniques and learnings from the model will be used to improve and extend translations on Facebook, Instagram and Wikipedia, the company said in a news release.“
The danger of license plate readers in post-Roe America
PRIVACY – Is it a silver lining that the last development of crazy legal decisions in the US is making people more aware of the dangers of continuous ubiquitous surveillance? “ALPRs could soon be used by police and anti-abortion groups alike.”(FTR: I don’t think you can frame it as silver lining; therefor the impact of the developments is to big…)
VW’s plans for Europcar include autonomous vehicles after 2025
AUTONOMOUS – It is a development that is clear for longer time; the traditional brand definitions will be replaced with new bundles. “After buying the rental car giant, VW will position Europcar at the center of its mobility services strategy, which will encompass traditional rentals, car-sharing, subscriptions, leasing – and autonomous vehicles after 2025.”
Robot overcomes uncertainty to retrieve buried objects 
ROBOTICS – I like these kind of research where an apparently not very useful application is used for deconstructing some new technologies that can become building blocks for future use. “FuseBot is a new MIT robotic system that fuses visual information and radio-frequency signals to efficiently find hidden items buried under a pile of objects, whether or not the targeted item has an RFID tag.”
From Hitchhiker’s Paranoid Android to Wall-E: why are pop-culture robots so sad? 
ROBOTICS – Amusing analysis of the way we interpreted a possible emotional state of robots. “‘Sentient’ AI seems to shoulder the weight of the world. Maybe we humans want it that way”

Paper for this week

Let’s stay with Deepmind. In the interview mentioned above the CEO is mentioning how their approach strives to follow scientific rules. They just published a paper:

Reed, S., Zolna, K., Parisotto, E., Colmenarejo, S. G., Novikov, A., Barth-Maron, G., … & de Freitas, N. (2022). A generalist agent. arXiv preprint arXiv:2205.06175.

“Inspired by progress in large-scale language modeling, we apply a similar approach towards building a single generalist agent beyond the realm of text outputs.” An overview and the extended version: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2205.06175.pdf

See you next week!

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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.