Playlist TEDTalks

6 talks on making electronics fun

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
Kate Stone plays a drum kit ... that's printed on poster. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Kate Stone plays a drum kit … that’s printed on a poster. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

“I make paper interactive,” says Kate Stone in today’s talk, given at TED2013.

Kate Stone: DJ decks made of... paper Kate Stone: DJ decks made of... paper Because this description of her work “really confuses most people,” the best way to understand it is to see it in action. So in this talk, Stone demonstrates some of her very cool creations — like a poster that can pick the perfect slice of cake for you, a newspaper that plays audio and video snippets attached to stories, and a poster that changes its imagery to show you your energy usage levels. In the grand finale of the talk, Stone plays two paper DJ decks and a kit of drums embedded on a poster. It’s the last item that’s perhaps most thrilling: as Stone touches a cymbal or kick drum on the poster, it resounds through the theater. Stone has taken to Kickstarter to raise money to produce this for consumers.

All of these things were created with an ordinary printing press, printing conductive ink onto the paper and letting thousands of electrons flow through it. From there, all it takes is a small circuit board and wireless software to make it work.

“It’s not even about the technology,” says Stone, wrapping it up. “I just want to create great experiences.”

Below, find five more talks from speakers who similarly want to make electronic design a lot more fun.

Leah Buechley: How to "sketch" with electronics Leah Buechley: How to "sketch" with electronics
Leah Buechley: How to “sketch” with electronics
Instead of coloring with regular crayons, imagine a drawing session with special paper and pens that let you create light-up circuits out of doodles. And instead of old-fashioned construction paper cut-outs, imagine creating pop-up books with working lights. In this talk from TEDYouth 2011, electrical engineer Leah Buechley describes how she and her team at the MIT Media Lab often feel bored by the process of designing circuit boards, that almost always come out looking the same. Their idea? To make designing electronics more like child’s play. In this talk, Buechley shares two especially fun projects, showing how drawn squiggles can become a playable musical instrument, and how a cut-out cityscape can glow and twinkle like a real skyline.
Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard! Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard!
Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard!
Inventor Jay Silver has a deep-seated urge to play with the world around him. In this madcap talk, given in TED’s New York office after hours, Silver shows how squirts of ketchup can make music and how two slices of pizza can be wired to be used as a slide clicker. His MaKey MaKey kit lets you turn everyday objects into computer interfaces — allowing you to play your stairs, or even your pet.
Kate Hartman: The art of wearable communication Kate Hartman: The art of wearable communication
Kate Hartman: The art of wearable communication
Kate Hartman is both an artist and technologist, and her wearable projects explore the bounds of human communication. What does that mean, exactly? Well, she’s created a hat that lets the wearer talk to themselves and an inflatable heart that shows the outside world what the wearer is feeling. Using simple electronics and clever designs, Hartman makes amusing creations focused on the human body and how it relates to others.
Ayah Bdeir: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach Ayah Bdeir: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach
Ayah Bdeir: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach
TED Fellow Ayah Bdeir introduced us to the next generation of LEGOs at TED2012. Called littleBits, these interchangeable blocks contain transistors that let kids build projects that buzz, blink, dim, pulse and sense — all while learning about programming at the same time. Since her talk, littleBits have gone on to be featured in the windows of MoMA Design Stores and, just weeks after Hurricane Sandy left downtown Manhattan without electricity, Bdeir held a workshop for kids called “Why did the lights go out?”  Bdeir tells the TED Blog, “LittleBits’ mission is to make people understand electronics and electricity in a world that is governed by it.”
Neil Harbisson: I listen to color Neil Harbisson: I listen to color
Neil Harbisson: I listen to color
Artist Neil Harbisson wears an electronic eye. Born with a visual condition called achromatopsia, which only lets him see shades of grey, this eye converts the colors of the world into sounds, allowing him to hear them. In this talk from TEDGlobal 2012, Harbisson explains how this piece of electronic equipment renders the sound of orange and, in a hilarious moment, lets it slip that going to the supermarket sounds a bit like strolling through a nightclub.

This post originally ran on November 15, 2012. It was updated on July 23, 2013, with several new talks added.