The Cities of Things Lab010 project has been running for a year now since its kick-off on February 16, 2022 at Gemaal op Zuid. It has been a busy year for everyone, and also for our project. In this update, I’d like to bring you up to date on the progress and plans for the rest of the project.
As announced in the latter post the field lab Cities of Things Lab010 was invited to organize the hackathon together with Creating010 and Civic Prototyping Lectorate of this year’s IoTRotterdam event. In the end, four teams participated and build some very nice citythings; autonomous moving objects on the streets of our near-future cities. The goal of the citythings was not defined and part of the process of the teams. Great to see it turned out most of the teams made the decision to let the citythings take a social role in the city life.
At the 10th edition of the IoT Rotterdam event on 8 April 2022, organized by Creating010 of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Cities of Things will be one of the organizers of the hackathon. More than even hacking, prototyping “urban smart-things” as a different name for citythings will be key. And these prototypes will be tested on the streets of Rotterdam by the teams.
In the hackathon teams of participants will rapidly conceptualize and prototype an “urban smart-thing”: a plausible, autonomously operating agent envisioned to roam the public spaces of the near-future Rotterdam. The participants will confront the prototype with the citizens of Rotterdam in the public areas of the city, interview them and jointly reflect on the necessary forms and shapes of the public debate around the role of AI in cities.
The prototype will use a pre-made “wizard-of-oz” platform, allowing a human operator to remotely simulate an AI algorithm, and control the movement of the prototype. Examples of possible prototypes include, but are (by far) not limited to a mobile garbage bin, interactive street signage, or a mobile plant.
See this movie to get an impression:
The teams will work at the new VONK Innovation Center located just off Coolsingel in Timmerhuis. The results of the explorations will be presented end of the day at Het Nieuwe Instituut where the conference program of IoT Rotterdam is located.
AI is increasingly used in cities to improve their efficiency, as part of urban services and infrastructure, but is also being embedded in various kinds of soon-to-be-autonomously operating agents. Autonomous passenger cars are only one example of such use of AI that will become commonplace within the coming decade. There will also be autonomous garbage collection vehicles, safety, and traffic monitoring agents, advertising and informational bots, delivery vehicles, and many more… As citizens we still rarely think about the impact that such autonomous AI agents will have on our everyday life, beyond the advertised improvement of everyday conveniences, such as the comfort of care-free riding in a self-driving car, or receiving fast online deliveries. Autonomous AI agents will soon, however, impact almost every aspect of our lives, for example
will share the public space with us on every step,
will take over automatable jobs (chauffeurs, vendors, cleaners),
will be used to monitor us and enforce rules and laws (street signage and access control).
We can’t fully predict what the impact of autonomous AI agents will be on our society and cities, but we can try to collectively envision, understand and democratically shape the applications of this future technology so that it serves our society to the best possible extent. However, as non-expert citizens, we lack first-hand experiences with autonomous agents in the everyday-life setting, which we could use as a point of reference for debate and contestation of AI-related developments.
We are very happy that our proposal for setting up Cities of Things Lab010 as part of the CityLab010 project is selected by the commission. Together with partners Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences research group Creating010. Afrikaanderwijk Co-op and Studio voor de Stad we entered the project in the summer. We plan to start the project in early 2022.
After an exciting time for many Rotterdam initiators, the decision is finally made. 49 Rotterdammers will receive a starting budget from CityLab010. Good for over 3 million euros. With this, they can make their dreams come true.
Aldermen Roos Vermeij (Economy, Neighborhoods and Small Districts) and Arno Bonte (Sustainability, Air Quality and Energy Transition) and chairwoman of the city jury, Carolien Dieleman, congratulate all the initiators on their starting budget and wish them every success with the implementation.
The short description of the City of Things Lab010 project is: More and more intelligent and autonomous objects are appearing on our streets. This is changing the city at the system level, with impact at the hyperlocal neighborhood level. The Cities of Things Labkar allows neighborhood residents to design and prototype citythings together with designers.