PLAN 83: Article
Watch And Learn

Twenty-Three TEDTalks from SA+P

In June 2011, on the fifth anniversary of its video series, TED released a list of the 20 most-watched TEDTalks to date, as seen on all the platforms they tracked – TED.com, YouTube, iTunes, embed and download, Hulu and more. Included in those videos were two from SA+P – featuring Patti Maes, head of the Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group, and Pranav Mistry, inventor of SixthSense – and this year those two videos are still among the 20 most popular. It made us curious to know how many TEDTalks our people have given in total over the years, so we did a search and came up with an unofficial count of 23. It’s likely we missed a few but here are descriptions of those we found, along with their number of viewings as of this writing. All of them are worth watching.

Pranav Mistry demonstrates several tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data -- including a deep look at his SixthSense device and a new, paradigm-shifting paper ‘laptop’; in an onstage Q&A, he says he'll open-source the software behind SixthSense, to open its possibilities to all. At this writing, nearly 9 million views since November 2009.

Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry together present the buzz of TED 2009, a demonstration of SixthSense that evokes the famous scene from Minority Report. More than 6.5 million views since march 2009.

Deb Roy shows how his infant son learned language, a process recorded with videocameras to catch nearly every moment of the boy’s life; astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn. More than 1.5 million views since March 2011.

David Merrill demonstrates Siftables -- cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands; these future-toys can do math, play music and talk to their friends. Over 1.3 million views since February 2011.

Ramesh Raskar presents femto-photography, a new type of imaging so fast it visualizes the world at one trillion frames per second, so detailed it shows light itself in motion; the technology may someday be used to build cameras that can look around corners or see inside the body without X-rays. Nearly 750,000 views since July 2012.

John Underkoffler demos g-speak – a real-life version of the eye-popping, tai chi-meets-cyberspace computer interface in Minority Report. More than 750,000 views since June 2010.

Jae Rhim Lee presents a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms – a provocative effort to foster a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death. More than half a million views since October 2011.

Skylar Tibbits presents his work on self-assembly -- the idea that instead of building something (a chair, a skyscraper), we can create materials that build themselves, much the way a strand of DNA zips itself together, a big concept at early stages; Tibbits shows us three in-the-lab projects that hint at what a self-assembling future might look like. More than 500,000 views since September 2011.

Mitchell Joachim presents his vision for sustainable, organic architecture: eco-friendly abodes grown from plants and -- wait for it -- meat. More than 500,000 views since July 2010.

Ed Boyden shows how, by inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, he can selectively activate or de-activate specific neurons with fiber-optic implants; with this unprecedented level of control, he's managed to cure mice of analogs of PTSD and certain forms of blindness. On the horizon: neural prosthetics. Session host Juan Enriquez leads a brief post-talk Q&A. More than 400,000 views since May 2011.

Kent Larson shows off folding cars, quick-change apartments and other innovations that could make the city of the future work a lot like a small village of the past. More than 400,000 views since September 2012.

Nicholas Negroponte predicts, with surprising accuracy, what will happen with CD-ROMs, web interfaces, service kiosks, the touchscreen interface of the iPhone and his own One Laptop per Child project. More than 400,000 views since March 2008.

Cynthia Breazeal presents her work training robots to interact with people – to teach, learn and play; includes amazing demo footage of a new interactive game for kids. More than 300,000 views since February 2011.

Carlo Ratti shows how he pulls from passive data sets -- like the calls we make, the garbage we throw away -- to create surprising visualizations of city life; he and his team also create dazzling interactive environments from moving water and flying light, powered by simple gestures caught through sensors. More than 300,000 views since February 2011.

Tod Machover demonstrates how he extends musical expression to everyone, from virtuosos to amateurs, and in the most diverse forms, from opera to video games; includes a moving performance by cerebral palsy patient Dan Ellsey of his composition My Eagle Song. Nearly 250,000 views since April 2008.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (MCP’78, PhD’81) presents an alternative to the familiar negative images of Africa -- famine and disease, conflict and corruption; the less-told story is happening in many African nations: one of reform, economic growth and business opportunity. More than 250,000 views since May 2007.

Neil Gershenfeld talks about his Fab Lab, a low-cost lab that lets people build things they need using digital and analog tools – a simple idea with powerful results. Nearly 250,000 views since February 2007.

Nicholas Negroponte talks about how One Laptop per Child is doing, two years in. Speaking at the EG conference while the first XO laptops roll off the production line, he recaps the controversies and recommits to the goals of this far-reaching project. Nearly 200,000 views since June 2008.

Marvin Minsky delivers an arch, eclectic, charmingly offhand talk on health, overpopulation and the human mind; packed with subtlety, wit, wisdom and just an ounce of wily, is-he-joking? advice. More than 200,000 views since September 2008.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (MCP’78, PhD’81) sums up four days of intense discussion on aid versus trade on the closing day of TEDGlobal 2007, and shares a personal story explaining her own commitment to this cause. More than 200,000 views since July 2007.

Nicholas Negroponte delivers laptops inside territory once controlled by Colombian guerrillas, partnered by Colombia's Defense Department who see One Laptop per Child as an investment in the region. More than 150,000 views since December 2008.

Nicholas Negroponte describes how the One Laptop Per Child project will build and distribute the $100 laptop. Nearly 150,000 views since August 2006.

Alexander D'Hooghe presents an argument for open platform urban forms – large empty squares and identical, reconfigurable buildings that can be appropriated by the people for whatever purposes they choose at any given time. Just posted, no views yet reported.

Late Addition: You can also watch a TEDTalk by newly-appointed planning professor Sarah Williams at TEDxWaterloo, given a few months before she moved from Columbia to MIT, talking about her use of mapping and data visualization techniques to uncover hidden and often surprising facts about the contemporary city.