Now that our orange luggage is unpacked, and the team is fully reinstalled in San Francisco, I wanted to share with you the highlight of my experience at South By Southwest this year (aside from all of the Eventbrite events, of course). I was lucky enough to attend the TED@SXSW presentation, and let me tell you…it was magical.
The evening opened with a beautiful song by Kat Edmonson, who has a voice that manages to be at once earthy and ethereal. It really set the tone for the whole night. She was followed by Ayah Bdeir, the opening speaker and a TED fellow. She founded a company called LittleBits, which manufactures Lego-like circuit pieces that connect with magnets. Without any formal training, people can use LittleBits to animate creative projects made from accessible, informal materials. And to encourage people of all ages to try something inventive with LittleBits, they are running the ‘Make something that does something’ campaign, which has already brought about some thrilling creations. Check them out here.
After Ayah was JP Rangaswami, who gave a presentation that compared the way we consume information, to the way we consume food. He asked: If we started as hunter/gatherers, and we have transitioned to an agrarian society, how does that same transition apply to the way we consume information? It’s the difference from having to go far to collect disparate information, to having access to so much information in one place, that the content needs to be organized and compartmentalized (like a fenced-in field). He also talked about robots (I love robots), and gave us this awesome one-liner: ‘For a robot, information and food are the same thing.’ It was the perfect whimsical way to substantiate his thesis.
Next the TED folks showed a video from TedxBuenos Aires. The organizers wanted to extend the reach of the event, beyond the audience in attendance. What was the scalable way to do it? Well, with cab drivers of course! TEDx invited 50 taxi drivers to attend, and encouraged them to tell their passengers about what they learned. With the help of these cabbies, TedxBuenos Aires reached 7 times the number of people who were actually in attendance at the event, itself!
After the video, DJ Spooky went up on stage. DJ Spooky!! He told us a story about visiting the arctic, and gave a live performance of a piece he composed based on his study of ice. He had the principal violinist from the Austin Symphony join him on stage, and mixed the whole thing in front of us, on his iPad. The piece is called ‘Tide and Tariff,’ and you should definitely check it out.
The final two speakers were Ping Fu and Nandu Madhava, who both spoke about how technological innovation is improving healthcare—but in very different ways. First I have to say that Ping Fu got up on stage in ferocious red shoes that she made with a 3D printer. They even had an iPhone holder built into the heel! She spoke about the inspiring ways in which her business, Geomagic, is using 3D printing to help reinvent the treatment used to help children with cleft pallets, and the manufacture of beautiful prosthetic limbs, that help patients feel more confident. Nandu Madhava followed, and spoke about mobile proliferation in India. His company mDhil.com takes advantage of this growth in mobile adoption by creating frank, prescriptive health videos that young people in India can watch on their phones. With 10 million new mobile users in India each month, he has found the perfect way to spread vital information for an entire generation.
This is just a snapshot of all of the amazing material from the night. So check out all of these speakers, and the TED Talks online for even more dazzling presentations. And to all of you who were in Austin, and who were able to make it to any of our presentations or our events, thanks for making our trip so brite!