TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organisation that seeks to provide people with a deeper understanding of the world while simultaneously providing free knowledge on a range of topics across all cultures. Its most popular initiative is TED Talks that are easy-to-understand videos taken of presentations by speakers from all kinds of disciplines and backgrounds. These speakers share ideas and projects they are knowledgeable and passionate about with the aim to educate. Topics range from biology and sociology to statistics and interpersonal relationships.
Here are some of the top TED talks about technology that will not only increase your knowledge but, at the same time, will also inspire and entertain you:
Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity…
Elon Musk is a South African-born inventor, engineer and entrepreneur. He has been involved with technology since he was very young and taught himself how to program at the age of 12. Some of Musk’s accomplishments include being the co-founder of PayPal, the CEO of Tesla Motors and the CTO of SpaceX (an aerospace company focusing on space transportation).
Musk is known for being a visionary and garners praise for his brave look into the future. In his TED talk he is interviewed by TED curator Chris Anderson. Musk speaks about the creation of an all-electric car, the usefulness of switching to solar energy, and the possibility of a reusable rocket.
Johnny Lee: Wii Remote hacks
Johnny Lee is a human-computer interaction researcher that is currently working at Google. Previously, he was part of the team that developed the Microsoft Kinect.
In his short and sweet TED talk (it’s just over 6 minutes long) he demonstrates how he turned the Wii Remote into a digital whiteboard, a touchscreen and a head-mounted 3D viewer. The talk was given multiple ovations during his talk, and Lee’s work was featured on many well-known technology websites. Following Lee’s lead with the Wii, many similar fun hack projects started popping up on YouTube.
Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard!
Jay Silver is an electrical engineer, toy inventor and hacker. Silver was the first-ever Maker Research Scientist at Intel and invented an electronic pencil called Drawdio that makes music as you draw.
Silver’s 13-minute talk is very playful and he displays a wide-eyed enthusiasm for his work. He shows how he is helping people turn ordinary, everyday objects into computer interfaces using simple circuitry. During his talk he demonstrates how his MaKey MaKey kit can be used to hack everyday things. For example, how to turn stairs into a piano, play plants and dogs as if they were instruments, and make music by eating various foods. Moreover, Silver’s hacks have also given people with disabilities the means with which to customise the world around them in a way that is inexpensive and suited to their unique needs.
Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology
A computer scientist and inventor, Pranav Mistry, is currently the Global Vice President of Research at Samsung. He is best known for working on the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch and his own SixthSense technology.
In his talk he demonstrates the many ways in which you can use the physical world as an interface to interact with computer and online data. For example, Mistry combined a projector and a camera to create SixthSense technology (a wearable device or interface) with which he can interact with images on a screen using only the tips of his fingers. This technology allows you to take a picture outside using only your hands as a viewfinder and later transferring the image onto an actual computer. It can also be used to make an actual phone call using projected numbers displayed on the palm of your hand. Moreover, Mistry showcases a functioning laptop that he created using only a piece of paper. His work is revolutionary and hopefully this technology will soon become a reality in our everyday lives.
Todd Humphreys: How to fool a GPS
Professor and researcher Todd Humphreys explores the future of GPS and geolocation. He believes that this technology can increase in accuracy to pinpoint locations within centimetres, or even millimetres, – so accurate that you can track the wrinkles on a person’s hand. Humphreys hopes that GPS will one day be able to help us track physical objects such as our car keys or to keep track of one’s children at an amusement park. Though there are obvious positive aspects of this increased geolocation accuracy, Humphreys also explores the negative impact it could potentially have.
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world
Jane McGonigal is an American game designer and author that advocates the use of technology to achieve positive change.
People spend billions of hours a week playing online games. Within games, people are more likely to strive to succeed and overcome obstacles with enthusiasm, while in real life that kind of motivated attitude oftentimes doesn’t exist. We are often better people in a game than we are in the real world. McGonigal’s dream is to turn what seems like a waste of time (gaming) into something that helps to solve real-world problems. She delivers a thought-provoking message about how we should translate our bravery and ambition in games into solving real-world problems.
Chris Urmson: How a driverless car sees the road
Before Google’s ambitious tracking of the world’s roads brought self-driving cars to the attention of the public, this technology seemed downright futuristic. In his talk Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, provides insight into how this technology can one day benefit all of us. He explains how a driverless car actually works. For example, how the car knows what action to take when a pedestrian unexpectedly appears in the road, or how it interprets things like a cyclist extending his arm to signal that he’s turning. On top of that Urmson also discusses the difference between self-driving and driver-assisted cars.