TED conferences have been taking place for more than 30 years with technology at the heart of some of the most inspirational talks. Here's some of our favourites.
We’re always searching for new ideas and looking to learn about new things, whether innovative or inspirational - or even both.
That could be as simple as wanting to learn how to make a banana sponge cake (does that even exist?) and resorting to good ol’ Google. Or something as complicated as trying to build a rocket in your back garden and trying to ring up NASA. And when we find and share the answers, things really do become exciting.
This is where TED comes into the mix. Never heard of it before? Don’t worry. It’s a set of conferences with the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading", which says it all, really. Since being founded in 1984 as a single event, it’s become a global phenomenon.
Technology is one of the biggest themes of these conferences, with past speakers including the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Telsa CEO Elon Musk and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Here are our picks of the inspiring tech TED talks.
Robin Murphy: Disaster recovery robots
Views: 658, 405
Date: May 2015
When a natural disaster strikes, people’s livelihoods and communities are ruined. And recovering isn’t as simple as waving a magic wand. The truth is, it takes very long time. But there is hope here! In a lab at environment at Texas A&M University, Professor Robin Murphy has been researching robots - ground, aerial and marine - that can help out in such disasters. In her TED talk, she explains how such technology has the capability to help people get their lives back up to three years faster.
Neil Harbisson: I listen to colour
Date: June 2012
This is a great example of how technology is being used to do the impossible. Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely colorblind but hasn’t let this stop him. He wears what he calls an “eyeborg”, a lightweight device installed on his forehead that allows him to hear the frequencies of colours instead of just seeing everything around him in grayscale. This not only helps him in his everyday life but also allows him to interpret his artwork in other colours besides dull greys.
Hugh Herr: New bionics that let us run, climb and dance
Date: March 2014
For those without limbs, life couldn’t be more challenging. Hugh Herr, the head of MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics group, lost both of his legs in a climbing accident 30 years ago. In his TED talk, he shows off the incredible tech he’s been developing to improve the quality of life for those in his situation. He’s developed a powered ankle-foot prosthesis called the BiOM, which copies the action of a biological leg.
Nancy Lublin: The heartbreaking text that inspired a crisis help line
Date: May 2015
Nancy Lublin, the CEO of non-profit DoSomething.org, talks about how one day a young woman texted the organisation with a plea for help because of rape. They responded by launching Crisis Text Line, a place where people affected by issues such as addiction, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and sexual abuse can get support via SMS. So far, the crisis help line has received over ten million text messages, and the data collected is helping schools and law enforcements handle such cases better.
Topher White: Your smartphone can save rainforests
Date: September 2014
There’s no denying it - the world’s rainforests are in crisis. It’s being caused by us cutting down trees for office furniture and garden benches. Topher White talks about how there’s a simple way to stop deforestation - and it starts with your smartphone. His start-up Rainforest Connection, founded 2012, converts recycled phones into solar powered listening devices that monitor rainforests. This system has already stopped illegal logging and poaching in Sumatra and is being expanded to rainforests in Indonesia, the Amazon and Africa. Or you could just stick to plastic, boycotting wood altogether.
Kenneth Shinozuka: My simple invention designed to keep my grandfather safe
Date: Nov 2012
Dementia is one of the biggest health threats in the world, and one of the biggest issues suffers have is wandering off. This is stressful for patients and carers. Teen inventor Kenneth Shinozuka has designed a number of gadgets to help his grandfather who has dementia. One of them is a pair of smart socks that sends an alert to a carer if a patient leaves their bed.
Jorge Soto: The future of early cancer detection?
Date: October 2014
Detecting symptoms of cancer early on can be potentially life saving, but the fact is that it’s so common for people to be misdiagnosed with things like chest infections. Electrical engineer Jorge Soto has co-founded mir mirOculus, a device that looks for microRNA in the bloodstream. This can identify the presence of cancer in the early stages. He demonstrates a working prototype in his TED talk.
Rupal Patel: Synthetic voices
Date: December 2013
There’s no denying that our voice is one of the most important things we possess. It allows us to communicate. For those with severe speech defects - like Stephen Hawking - it’s normal to use a computer to communicate. But voice choices, such as accent, are limited. Speech scientist Rupel Patel wants to change this and talks about VocaliD, an innovation she’s developed that gives people who are speech limited or voiceless the ability to speak in their own unique voice.
Ron McCallum: How technology has allowed me to read
Date: June 2013
Ron MccCallum is an Australian industrial and discrimination lawyer and a human rights activist. Just a few months after he was born in 1948, he became 100 per cent blind. But this hasn’t stopped him from pursuing in a career in law. In his inspiring TED talk, he shows how he’s able to read using innovative technology and also celebrates the evolution of such technology over the decades.
Juliana Rotich: Meet BRCK, internet access built for Africa
Date: June 2013
For developing nations in parts of the world like Africa, connecting to the internet is something of a luxury - with so many disconnected. Tech entrepreneur Juliana Rotich and her friends think they have the solution: BRCK. It’s a wireless, 3G-based modem which can provide internet access to more than 20 devices at one time.
Seen a great tech TED talk we've missed on the list? Let us know in the comments section below.