Working from home helpers, social distancing detector and the force

New picks - things we thought were fascinating this week, curated by Monique van Dusseldorp and David Mattin.

Every week we take a closer look at the new normal, about changing behaviours that are forming in these strange times around the globe, and which of them might last.

This week several working from home experiences caught our attention, especially, some of them being not only useful but really essential. A lot is happening in the AI space, of course. And then we fell in love with this musician’s creative take on “Hausmusik”.


We are all getting used to video calls, maybe even start to enjoy them, and every evening we visit some events online starting to see some ideas on what work could look like in the future. Here you can see a concept called Square from Argodesign. It’s an artificial window, created from an LCD screen that goes on the wall next to your desk. When you raise the shade, you can see a coworker, or two, working right there next to you. You can strike up a conversation, or ignore them. You can gossip, or hold a productive meeting. Just like in a real office! 

Wetransfer recreated their office online after closing down their New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam offices. Their online office is SimCity like, and we really like the reasoning behind it. According to the CEO the platform is particularly valuable for recent hires, he said. ‘Those of us who have been working at WeTransfer for a while are able to live off the social capital we built up from all those serendipitous meetings and chats before,” Mr. Willoughby said. “For new people, that’s much harder. The 3-D office is a really good way of maintaining that unplanned connectivity.”

And then we found out that this concept, of working together, actually already exists. Not working with your colleagues, but working with strangers, just as a way not to be alone, stay concentrated, hear that office sounds perhaps? Somehow this is close to the ASMR genre, which also was a complete surprise for us. So go to YouTube and search for “work with me“. Or start your own live stream for yourself or with your colleagues! 

But it is not only office work that is done remotely. We are entering a new era of remote working, and this is going to lead to some amazing innovation and some huge business opportunities. Here is an example: Proximie is a dashboard that allows surgeons to collaborate remotely using audio, visual support and augmented reality. What it means right now is that surgeons self-isolating at home due to corona can still be useful, because they can join operations remotely and guide less experienced surgeons through the process. It also means surgeons in safe places can guide others in, say, war zones, through life-saving operations. How’s that for working from home!


How can AI be helpful in these unprecedented times? Landing.AI is an industrial AI company that provides enterprise-wide transformation programmes and solutions with a focus on computer vision founded by Andrew Ng, a world-renowned AI technology leader. With this software, it can be assessed if people are keeping their distance in public space or in the workplace.

Datakalab is actively monitoring crowds in France – starting this week, everyone riding public transportation in France is required to wear a face mask. Paris and Cannes are using computer vision to count people who comply. Datakalab, a French AI startup, is installing chips in existing CCTV cameras that run an object recognition model. The model is trained to distinguish masked faces from unmasked ones. The idea is to get a sense of how many people comply with the rules – not to single out individuals. But who knows what the future might bring. 

And now something really interesting is happening in a world that is already built on predictions, like in e-commerce. Machine-learning models trained on normal behaviour are showing cracks — forcing humans to step in to set them straight. There is an interesting article in the MIT Technology Review about how these events have affected artificial intelligence, causing hiccups for the algorithms that run behind the scenes in inventory management, fraud detection, marketing, and more. Machine-learning models trained on normal human behaviour are now finding that normal has changed, and some are no longer working as they should. So companies end up pulling happy emoji’s, party recommendations, and more by hand. But Amazon has also changed the recommendations algorithm to make sure its own warehouses can cope, sending buyers to third parties. Yes, it is a strange world.

Photo by Petar Petkovski on Unsplash