Technology TEDx

Inanimate objects brought to life: 7 intriguing talks

ErikSchlangenRoads need constant repair. Rain, snow and other moisture seeps into the asphalt and — if it freezes — expands, breaking it apart and creating potholes.

Erik Schlangen: A "self-healing" asphalt Erik Schlangen: A "self-healing" asphalt

In today’s talk, given at TEDxDelft, civil engineer Erik Schlangen reveals a fascinating solution: a road that is able to heal. He gives a demonstration of a new type of asphalt, which incorporates tiny strands of steel. He breaks a piece of it in half and puts it in the microwave for two minutes. He takes it out, fully formed again.

The application? This asphalt can be laid on a road. According to Schlangen’s tests, it will last about four years before it gets damaged. At that point, an induction machine would drive over the road, catalyzing its ability to repair itself. Schlangen imagines that roads could last twice as long if made of this material.

To see this amazing demonstration, watch the talk. And here, more TED Talks about infusing inanimate materials with life-like qualities.

Theo Jansen: My creations, a new form of life Theo Jansen: My creations, a new form of life Theo Jansen: My creations, a new form of life
Theo Jansen makes animal-like sculptures out of plastic tubing, drink bottles and foam. And yet, they are able to walk and move — even live on their own in herds on the beach and protect themselves from storms. At TED2007, Jansen shows us these creatures in motion.
Lee Cronin: Making matter come alive Lee Cronin: Making matter come alive Lee Cronin: Making matter come alive
It’s amazing that the organic, living world arose out of inorganic, dead matter. In this talk from TEDGlobal 2011, chemist Lee Cronin wonders: can we create life, if we define life as anything that can evolve? (See our playlist of talks to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday.)
Todd Kuiken: A prosthetic arm that "feels" Todd Kuiken: A prosthetic arm that "feels" Todd Kuiken: A prosthetic arm that “feels”
Both a doctor and an engineer, Todd Kuiken is creating a prosthetic arm that not only performs tasks — but that is able to connect to a person’s nervous system. At TEDGlobal 2011, he brings a patient on stage to demonstrate how it gives more control and a sensation of feeling.
Reuben Margolin: Sculpting waves in wood and time Reuben Margolin: Sculpting waves in wood and time Reuben Margolin: Sculpting waves in wood and time
Kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin creates stunning, meditative pieces that move — emulating the patterns of falling raindrops and undulating waves. In this talk at TED2012, Margolin introduces us to his sculptures, including “Double Raindrop,” which he calls “the most talkative” of his works.
Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral
At TED2011, architect Thomas Heatherwick shows off his bio-inspired designs, including a moving bridge that “kisses itself,” constricting into a circle and then unfurling over a body of water. He also shows us the “Seed Cathedral,” a building made of plants and dedicated to growth.
Suzanne Lee: Grow your own clothes Suzanne Lee: Grow your own clothes Suzanne Lee: Grow your own clothes
Cloth can be sewn and worn. But can it be grown? In this talk from TED2011, Suzanne Lee shares how she creates living material for her fashion designs. Get ready to see how kombucha — a mix of bacteria, yeasts and micro-organisms — ferments into a vegetable leather.
Matt Mills: Image recognition that triggers augmented reality Matt Mills: Image recognition that triggers augmented reality Matt Mills: Image recognition that triggers augmented reality
Aurasma is a app that can make paintings dance and newspapers talk. At TEDGlobal 2012, Matt Mills and Tamara Roukaerts demonstrate this technology, which uses a smartphone to overlay video content over something static — thanks to an image trigger. (Give Aurasma a test drive through this TED Blog post.)