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At least, it seems to me that this is the case when it comes to emergent technologies that are hyped as disruptive technologies that will change society at large in the near future and within our lifetime. As a middle-aged individual, I can testify that expectations about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, have erupted multiple times during my professional life as a design researcher. It happened when neural nets were introduced in human-computer interaction, when these computers became connected at the rise of the internet, and, more recently, when big-data started to feed deep-learning strategies. AI, as an emergent technology, became ‘hot’ over and over again over the last couple of decades.

The members of the dutch MMI Platform have always tried to timely bring such trending topics to their round-table discussions. It turns out that the diversity of the backgrounds of the different platform members and their joint coverage of a wide range of application-oriented expertise areas provides the right setting for critical discussion and enlighting debates on the ‘hottest’ emerging technologies of the moment. Take for example the October 2016 debate on the Internet of Things (IoT), which was bootstrapped with the general question: What impact will the rapid developments around the Internet or Things have on your ‘business’?

Some opponents dismissed this question as being ‘not relevant’, ‘a storm in a glass of water’, or simply as yet another ‘buzzword’. Others were excited and saw new opportunities or indicated they were already changing their business focus and strategy. By personalising and contextualising the question to the level of the core business of the individual MMI member, the resulting exchange of views finally led to the Platform’s shared interest: What are the MMI issues and challenges for the interaction with the Internet of Things?

Consensus emerged that the IoT will become important for every one of us, for business and private life, in industry and in academia. But also that a good estimate of the importance of new and rapid technological developments like IoT is and remains difficult! And last but not least, that predecessors of the IoT, like Domotics and Ubiquitous Computing, or more specifically for the Netherlands, Ambient Intelligence, have already addressed many issues that seem to be re-discovered or re-invented under the trendy IoT umbrella. The lack of historical perspective is adamant and should be repaired to prevent that history is repeating itself. Such repetitions lead to wasted efforts and delayed progress.

During its round-table discussions, the members of the dutch MMI Platform have demonstrated that operating as a shared interest group, raises the awarenes of knowledge and insights from the past providing a headstart for transforming technology hypes into real innovations that matter.

Berry Eggen
Department of Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology