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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, 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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