TED 2016: Highlights from a week of big ideas
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.