Tuesday, November 23, 2010

20 Must-See TED Speeches for Computer Scientists

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TED is a nonprofit organization that has dedicated itself to the concept that good ideas are worth spreading. To promote these great ideas, TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) has a yearly conference in Long Beach, California. While the conference is too expensive for most people to attend, at $6000 per person, TED has used the Internet to share talks from the conference since 2006.

These are free of charge to the public and an amazing resource for professionals in many fields. Computer scientists will find these 20 TED speeches (not ranked in any particular order) informative, challenging, and stimulating. Maybe an idea worth spreading will help you make the connection you’ve been looking for in your own computer science research.

    1. George Dyson at the birth of the computer | Video on

    Have you ever heard the real stories about the dawn of computing? Sure, you have probably memorized important dates and can talk about things like vacuum tubes and punch cards, but do you really know what went on at the beginning? In this enlightening talk, computer historian George Dyson reveals fascinating and sometimes funny anecdotes about the beginning of computing.

    2. Kwabena Boahen on a computer that works like the brain | Video on

    Kwabena Boahen’s team at Stanford is working on computer technology that works less like a computer usually does, and more like the human brain does. He discusses the inefficiencies associated with traditional computing and ways that they might be overcome using reverse engineering of the human nervous system.

    3. Jeff Han demos his breakthrough touchscreen | Video on

    Jeff Han’s incredible speech from 2006 shows the future of touch-screen interfaces. His scalable, multi-touch, pressure-sensitive interface allows people to use the computer without the barriers of having to point and click all the time.

    4. Paul Debevec animates a photo-real digital face | Video on

    Paul Debevec explains the process behind his animation of Digital Emily, a hyper-realistic character. Digital Emily is based on a real person named Emily, and created using an advanced 360-degree camera setup.


    In this mind-boggling speech, Stephen Wolfram, a world-renowned leader in scientific computing, discusses his life’s mission. He wants to make all of the knowledge in the world computational. His new search engine, Wolfram|Alpha, is designed to take all of the available information on the web and make instant computations of that information accessible to the world.

    6. Dennis Hong: My seven species of robot

    As artificial intelligence technology continues to evolve, the quest continues to create robots that are truly useful on a scientific and on an ordinary, day-to-day level. Dennis Hong’s RoMeLa lab at Virginia Tech presents seven distinctly different robots in this talk. Make sure you watch all the way to the end to discover his secrets of creativity.


    Gary Flake believes that the whole of all data we have is greater than the sum of its parts. He and the staff at Microsoft Live Labs have created a fascinating new tool called Pivot that enables people to browse the web not by going from page to page, but by looking at large patterns all at once.

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