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Will railways suffer the autonomous axe?

Almost two centuries ago, the Victorian age descended on Great Britain. It was a tale of two Charles’s (Darwin and Dickens), an era of ingenuity, an age of political reform and social change, and a dawning of the first Industrial Age. It was a time of smokestacks and sweeping development – and it coincided with the rise of the British railways. All throughout the country, train tracks were rolled out like a red carpet to industrial progress, connecting cities to towns and shorelines to inland areas. Rail wore the second crown for over a century, revolutionising travel, industry and broader concepts of human connectivity…until the day the automobile rolled into town.

Reinventing the third place for the digital dimension

Long, long ago, when games still needed dice and phones required cords, the average teenager was a very different breed of human. Awkward experiments in social behaviour were conducted face to face, and migration patterns usually revolved around food courts and bowling alleys. And for those of us who grew up in a metropolitan area, the mall was the ‘ground zero’ for the community – a place of common gathering and interaction, where pimple-pocked youth could strut and flash their proverbial peacock feathers, and arcade games provided endless entertainment.

Designing for the future: Generation… ‘Next’!

There’s nothing that screams ‘millennial’ quite like a selfie. But then again, there’s nothing that hasn’t screamed ‘millennial’ for the past two decades. Along with their tattoos, hipster vibes, smashed avo, Birkenstock loyalties and other clichéd affectations, millennials (those born 1982-1993) have captured the attention of popular culture like no other generation in history. This global tribe of digital optimists, now almost 2.5 billion-strong, has influenced every sphere of society and called the workforce to a new standard of engagement and management.

Parking lots: an urban endangered species

We all know them: those custodians of the pavement, often donned in reflective uniforms and armed with their weapon of ticketry. Everywhere you go in the world, parking inspectors tend to provoke the same irritations and avoidance responses. This kerbside dynamic is pretty universal. Yet it’s becoming increasingly dated too. What will we do with all those car parks and kerbs, as automated vehicles (AVs) and shared vehicles increasingly dominate the road?

Moving forward means going back…to school

Ask the average five-year old whether they’re an artist, an astronaut or a president-to-be, and chances are good they’ll say all three. There’s no braver, more formidable force on earth than a child’s imagination. Nothing is too out-of-reach for children, not even the stars themselves. Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he or she grows up.”

Please do disturb: Knocking on hotels’ future

You don’t need to fast forward to the future to see robots taking over. The truth is, they are already here – in the present – in tuxedos and bright uniforms, waiting in hotel lounges, receptions and hallways, ready to serve some ‘robot hospitality’. M Social Singapore has its ‘bots’ Aura and Ausca; Hotel Jen in Singapore also has Jeno and Jena, and Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas has Fetch and Jett – the partners-in-crime ‘hired’ to welcome guests, clean, cook, and provide room service. It’s no longer a prediction nor a forecast but a reality. Welcome to Hotel 2.0.

Empty spaces: Cracking open our campuses for innovation

In 1804, the world’s population stood at one billion. Just over 200 years later, that number had multiplied sevenfold. One billion: a number that, at the turn of the 19th century, had taken all of human history to accrue, is now tipping over in a matter of 12 years. From six billion in 1999, we have quickly reached the seven billion mark in 2011. Humans, we have a problem.

Humanity 2.0 in the AI revolution

No one is better at being human than humans. But robots beg to differ…ask Harish Natarajan, the world record holder for debate competition victories. In February this year, Harish faced the most unique and unpredictable opponent he had ever encountered – Miss Debater, IBM’s six-year-old artificial intelligence (AI) system. While Harish may have had more debating experience than the bot, truth be told, the odds have not been in favor of humans lately. The battle between humans and machines has witnessed world champs and record breakers fall short to AI countless times. Yet, in today’s world where everyone is claiming that robots are out to take our jobs, humans needed a win – and win, Harish did. Not this time, machines!

Are we coming to the end of the road for roads as we know them?

Sprawled across a bike path in Nuenen, Netherlands, 50 000 solar-powered stones are embedded on the pavement to glow in the dark and resemble Vincent van Gogh’s famous “The Starry Night”. It was a commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the painter’s death: a techno-poetry that Dutch artist and urban architect Daan Roosegaarde describes as “technical combined with experience”, a fusion of art and purpose.

The future won’t have stop signs

Roads will remain part of our future alongside other types of transport infrastructure. What kind of new thinking must we embrace to pave the way for AVs?

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