The coolest tech videos at TED 2011

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The inaugural TED conference in 1984 featured one of the first demonstrations of the Macintosh Computer and the Sony compact disc. Over the last two decades TED has continued to bring us great new ideas and mind boggling technologies. 2011 is no different. Below we feature a hand picked selection of some of the most awesome tech to have emerged out of TED in Monteray California and TEDGlobal in Edinburgh Scotland

Markus Fischer: A robot that flies like a bird

Icarus’ ill-fated attempt at conquering the skies certainly did not deter the engineers of Smart Bird. Based on the Herring Gull, with a wing span of 2 meters, composed of carbon fibre and weighting in at only 450g, Festo’s creation generates lift by flapping its wings — alone. Be amazed as Smart Bird gracefully flies around the Edinburgh International Conference Center twisting and flexing its wings in the same manner as its avian counterpart.

Mike Matas: A next-generation digital book


Mike Matta, of Push Pop Press, shows us the future of digital books with this stunning presentation. Premiering Al Gore’s sequel to an Inconvenient Truth, Our Choice is a fully interactive book that allows readers to pick up images and video, interact with infographics and use the microphone to mimic the production of wind power. With stunning imagery and narration this book is another glimpse into a future without paper.

Harald Haas: Wireless data from every light bulb

Harnessing the power of a simple LED light to wirelessly transmit data is an idea that certainly seems to belong in the realms of Science fiction. Dr Harold Haas from Jacobs University Bremen, though, uses an ordinary desk lamp to transmit High Definition video. The possible applications are endless. Not only could we safely surf the web on an aeroplane or have cars communicate using their headlights but anywhere there is light, data can be sent. With 10 000 times more light bulbs than cellphone towers and a spectrum 10 000 times greater radio waves — the future looks bright.

Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers

Building a car that a blind person can drive goes further than developing an autonomous driving system. Rather it is a vehicle that allows a blind person to make active decisions. Dr Hong and his team have developed a variety of technologies that convey non visual information about the environment to the drive. From vibrating gloves and customised massage chairs to a panel that shoots out jets of air, these techniques all allow blind drivers to dynamically avoid obstacles and stay safely on the road. While the main purpose of the project is to develop a car for the blind, the spin off technology that results is of tremendous value.

Sebastian Thrun: Google’s driverless car

Although driverless cars are years from production, this technology is undeniably amazing. The team headed by engineer Sebastian Thrun, originally created the first car to complete a DARPA Grand Challenge. Thrunn believes that this technology can be used to save lives and double the capacity of our current road network by allowing cars to drive closer together. The project recently caused a stir as one of the cars caused an accident — ironically the crash occurred with a human at the wheel.

Image: James Duncan Davidson / TED

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