Founded in 1984, TED is a conference established with the sole mission of spreading ideas. The annual conferences have been held since 1990, aiming to bring together experts in the fields of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (T,E,D) to give talks and make them available to the world for free.
Embracing its slogan, ‘Ideas Worth Spreading,’ we have collected five impressive TED Talks on technology developments. Some of these presentations are quite long (by our ‘attention span’ standards), but not to worry, we have shared the best moments of the videos so you can skip right into the action.
Indeed, these presentations by scientists, engineers, and designers alike are some of the best we would like to share with you. We hope that you will spread these ideas among your friends as well.
TED Videos for Web Designers: Tips, Insights and Inspiration
Looking for inspiration to take your web design skills to the next level? Look no further than TED... Read more
1. "Wireless Electricity" by Eric Giler
Wireless technology is in, and wires are out. That has been the popular sentiment for the past few years. Who wants to deal with the messy, tangled wiring of their television set, personal computer, or even their smartphone chargers? We want to minimize our reliance on wires because they are not only an eyesore, but they also restrict the placement of our electronic devices.
Moreover, we want to stop fumbling around for the phone charger in the middle of the night when our phones incessantly beep for a recharge. Eric Giler has a solution: he suggests that we can charge our phones and electronic devices wirelessly. In the video, Giler demonstrates how wireless charging is made possible with electromagnetic technology. At 7:25, he plugs in the cord to the charging coil, and within 10 seconds, the TV, which is a distance away from the charging coil, starts up (7:40).
To understand what allows this to happen, watch from 6:30 to see Giler explain how wireless charging works. Using electromagnetic induction, we can now transmit electric power through the air and charge electronic devices like TVs or even smartphones (8:35).
2. "Cooperative Flying Robots" by Vijay Kumar
Artificial Intelligence is not a new concept, but it is remarkable how far scientists have taken the technology to heart. In this video demonstrated by Vijay Kumar, we see small, agile mini-robots that have been programmed to control their own flight movements without human intervention. What is amazing about this is that these robots can communicate with one another and can actually devise a plan to cooperate with each other to accomplish their tasks, all without human involvement.
Watch these robots fly in formation (10:02), maneuver through obstacles without breaking formation (10:20), and build structures cooperatively, taking turns (11:20). These robots can be used as first responders in search and rescue operations or exploratory missions, entering collapsed buildings to search for survivors in areas struck by natural disasters, and more. There is no end in sight for what these robots can do; we are limited only by our imagination.
As a special treat, go to (15:15) to watch a music performance of the Mission Impossible theme made entirely by these amazing flying robots.
3. "Wii Remote Hacks" by Johnny Lee
Prepare to be amazed by this 5-minute clip. Johnny Lee demonstrates how he hacked a $40 Nintendo Wii remote and transformed it into a multi-touch interactive whiteboard (2:00). The trick? Utilizing the high-performance infrared camera located on the tip of every Wii remote and an additional $10 in hardware to make it function.
By employing a DIY infrared pen, the Wii Remote’s motion-sensor camera positioned on the projector, and a specialized software (the ‘hack’ he created), anyone can now use the pen on a projector like an interactive whiteboard. In the second demo, Lee uses a pair of safety glasses with two infrared dots. Due to the coordination between the infrared dots and the camera, a 3D environment is created that responds to your head movement (3:50)!
Here’s an even better (albeit earlier) video that showcases the 3D head-tracking experiment in detail. Lee deserves a standing ovation for his work, which he does receive at the end of his TED presentation.
4. "Image Recognition That Triggers AR" by Matt Mills
Smartphones may become even smarter in the future with their ability to recognize objects in real life and provide additional information, creating an augmented experience for users. We’re not talking about merely scanning QR codes to extract text, URLs, etc., but this presentation by Matt Mills will probably help you visualize it better.
Check out how pointing the smartphone’s camera at the sports section of a daily newspaper produces a video of the actual gameplay during a tennis match (2:10) or how you can get a visual guide on setting up a device, such as a router, simply by pointing the camera at the router (3:00). Additionally, see how a photo can seamlessly trigger an embedded video (3:30). This is done with a program called Aurasma.
You can attach any video clip to any image, which, when scanned by the program, can trigger the video to play. It’s great as an educational tool, an advertising tool for a new movie, or as an inside view of your job just by tagging your company video presentation to your business name card.
5. "Imaging at a Trillion Frames Per Second" by Ramesh Raskar
High-speed cameras can measure over 1,000 fps (frames per second), while a normal motion picture captures 24 fps. However, with Femto photography, you can capture an astounding one trillion frames per second! In fact, Ramesh Raskar has used it to capture a video of light in motion (2:00) as it passes through a 1.5L plastic bottle of water (see below).
At 2:55, you get a detailed view of the path the beam of light took in a nanosecond. In comparison, a bullet going through the same path at the same time frame would take a year to watch at that replay rate.
The technology itself is an amazing feat, but the crux of Ramesh Raskar’s presentation is when he demonstrates how we can look around corners using the high-performance camera by capturing reflected photons fired from a laser pulse.
The idea is demonstrated with a mini-model of a mannequin placed behind a wall and not within the line of sight of the camera. The Femto camera attempts to capture a visual of the mannequin based on the photons that are reflected off it onto the door (far right). Skip to 6:25 for a visual explanation that won’t give you a headache. A 3D model of the object hidden around the corner (in this case, the mannequin) will be generated based on the reflected photons of light coming from the door.
With this technology, we could build sensors in cars that could prevent collisions around dangerous bends, detect the presence of survivors in burning or collapsed buildings, and produce better, non-invasive health-imaging diagnostic tools (say goodbye to X-rays).