TED 2016: High­lights from a week of big ideas

Bhutan Times - - Adverts - From vir­tual re­al­ity to chore­ographed drones, there was a lot to get ex­cited about

If the theme of this year’s TED Con­fer­ence in Van­cou­ver was “dream,” as in dream of pos­si­bil­i­ties, the week­long pro­gram achieved that with syn­chronously fly­ing drones, flashy dis­plays of aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy, and im­pas­sioned talks about re­mak­ing so­ci­ety.

Ev­ery year the Tech­nol­ogy, En­ter­tain­ment and De­sign con­fer­ence lures more than 1,400 well­heeled at­ten­dees who shell out more than $8,500 each for the right to sit in the cus­tom-made am­phithe­atre and lis­ten to en­gag­ing and in­ter­est­ing speak­ers.

The con­fer­ence is usu­ally an amal­gam of break­ing sci­ence, rad­i­cal re­designs and thought­pro­vok­ing so­cial con­cepts.

Here’s a look, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, of some of the top talks and events that took place this week.

Say good­bye to the or­di­nary com­puter screen

Mi­crosoft’s Alex Kip­man con­ducted a freaky aug­mented re­al­ity show with a new “hololens,” fea­tur­ing an on­stage con­ver­sa­tion with a col­league a block away. Meta un­veiled new aug­mented re­al­ity glasses. An im­mer­sive re­al­ity show called “The VOID,” fea­tur­ing an In­di­ana Jones back­drop, at­tracted ac­tor Har­ri­son Ford and di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg, along with a week­long wait to try it out. Google came out with an in­ex­pen­sive card­board viewer that turns a smart­phone into a 3-D vir­tual re­al­ity ma­chine. But it only works with iPhone 5s or higher.

First in­door drone flight at Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre

A few years ago Ama­zon pro­posed a drone door- to-door de­liv­ery ser­vice. It hasn’t yet hap­pened. But this week Raf­faello D’An­drea of the Swiss Fed­eral In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy not only flew what looked like your par­ents’ round lamp shade in­side the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, he launched a squadron of tiny au­ton­o­mous com­put­er­con­trolled drones, in a chore­ographed aerial light show, whizzing in­side the am­phithe­atre. The con­ven­tion cen­tre doesn’t al­low in­door flights, so a ner­vous TED cu­ra­tor Chris An­der­son had to in­dem­nify it against any law­suits should the drones come crash­ing down on any of TED’s gawk­ing at­ten­dees.

Let’s share. But just not a car in Van­cou­ver

The dreams of so­cial dis­rupters like Uber CEO Travis Kalan­ick and Airbnb’s co-founder Joe Geb­bia were also on dis­play. Both have cre­ated bil­lion­dol­lar com­pa­nies hinged on the shar­ing econ­omy. Kalan­ick used his TED talk to smack down trans­porta­tion reg­u­la­tors. Of course, B.C. has so far re­sisted Uber’s at­tempts to col­o­nize the com­muter car. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and the ho­tel in­dus­try have their own prob­lems with Airbnb’s home-shar­ing con­cept. Ha­ley Van Dyck, an­other tech guru, has be­come the U.S. govern­ment face of so­cial dis­rup­tion, with her U.S. Dig­i­tal Ser­vice rad­i­cally chang­ing pa­per lovers like the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice and the Veter­ans Depart­ment.

The hap­pi­ness of car­bon neu­tral­ity

Bhutan’s Prime Min­is­ter, Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay, put a de­cid­edly happy face on the trou­bles his tiny Hi­malayan coun­try faces from cli­mate change. A place where “gross na­tional hap­pi­ness is more im­por­tant than gross na­tional prod­uct,” Bhutan is the world’s first car­bon-neg­a­tive coun­try. But it also has lost glaciers to global warm­ing, re­sult­ing in dev­as­tat­ing floods. For­mer U.S. vice-pres­i­dent Al Gore also de­liv­ered a happy face, 10 years af­ter he dropped the cli­mate re­al­ity bomb at TED. With the price of re­new­able en­ergy com­ing down, “we will beat (cli­mate change),” he told TED this week. And Chris­tiana Figueres, the head of the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change, left ev­ery­one do­ing a happy dance since she’s in charge of mak­ing the Paris COP 21 ac­cord work.

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