10 inspiring tech Ted talks you need to watch right now

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

Views: 1,979,396
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

Views: 4,833,448
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

Views: 115,896
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


Topher White: Your smartphone can save rainforests

Views: 1,037,414
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

Views: 1,305,292
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?

Views: 1,044,837
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

Views: 779,104
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

Views: 609,438
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

Views: 585,568
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.

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