Some highlights from TEDGlobal 2011

by Andrew Moir

TEDglobal is a special kind of convention. Forget mass gatherings of music fans or science-fiction geeks – The Technology Entertainment and Design conference is where the real action happens. It’s all about dissemination of ideas, spreading the word and trying to change the world.

TEDGlobal 2011 is took place at Edinburgh’s International Conference centre from the 12 until 15 July. The four day program includes over 50 speakers and performers from amongst the greatest minds of a generation. The event is pretty exclusive at £4000 a ticket but the knowledge is shared through the official website and real time updates on twitter. The theme of the conference this year is life and how it can be better lived.

The cutting edge tech conference launched with singer Imogen Heap demonstrating some musical gloves. The fibre optic gloves were developed at the University of West England and give the performer far more control of the music. For example by moving her arms, Heap was able to control the volume of her music. It is hoped the technology can be further developed to change the mode of music depending on where the artist stands on the stage. This way the artist can truly respond to the audience.

It isn’t all about fancy gadgets though. There are plenty of thought provoking speeches on offer.

Neuroscientist Paul Zak asked why bankers who get such huge bonuses behave badly. Turns out it’s all in the chemicals. They produce less oxytocin in their brains meaning they are unlikely to feel empathy.
TED fellow Sonaar Luthra unveiled a device that could help locate clean water in crisis situations.  The device will be able to test for both micro-biological and chemical contaminations using spectral technology and they hope to give it away for free,
Jose Gomez-Marquez has made children’s toys lifesavers when developing new medical equipment to be used in the developing world. With this work nebulizers can be made out of bicycle pumps and Lego bricks can become part of a mobile lab.
 Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist asked if babies can do maths. In fact their minds are far more flexible than any adults and they’re imaginations allow them to come up with complicated solutions.

Those big ideas are all very important and will result in plenty of research and development over the coming years. However the true purpose of any tech convention is to find out if a man can fly. Swiss airline pilot Yves Rossy regularly straps wings to his body and leaps out of plane using a jet back but uses his body as a fuselage. See his amazing feat below.

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