The best tech demos at TED

Posted by: Thu-Huong Ha

383975_Boaz_Almog_2012G_stageshotCalling all self-proclaimed tech nerds! TED has long been known for demos that set everyone in the theatre a-buzz. Here’s a look back at some memorable tech demos from TED and TEDGlobals past.

Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcoptersRaffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcoptersRaffaello D’Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2013
You’ve heard of muscle cars. Now come muscle flying quadcopters. In this demo, see how these copters think like athletes and work together as a team to solve physical challenges.
Keller Rinaudo: A mini robot -- powered by your phoneKeller Rinaudo: A mini robot -- powered by your phoneKeller Rinaudo: A mini robot — powered by your phone
On stage at: TED2013
Romo turns your cell phone into something between a cell phone, a pet and a friend. At TED2013, Keller Rinaudo shows us how this little guy works with your iPhone as a brain.
Boaz Almog: The levitating superconductorBoaz Almog: The levitating superconductorBoaz Almog “levitates” a superconductor
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2012
Boaz Almog uses quantum locking to “levitate” a superconducting disk over a rail, without friction or energy loss. Start at 4:30 to watch a super-thin 3-inch disk levitate something 70,000 times its own weight.
Markus Fischer: A robot that flies like a birdMarkus Fischer: A robot that flies like a birdA robot that flies like a bird
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2011
Markus Fischer and his team at Festo, a German tech company, developed a lightweight, incredibly lifelike robot that flies like a bird. Watch from 2:00 to 3:00 to see the SmartBird in action as it soars over the audience.
Tan Le: A headset that reads your brainwavesTan Le: A headset that reads your brainwavesTan Le: A headset that reads your brainwaves
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2010
A mind-boggling demo by Tan Le, in which a volunteer is able to “pull” a cube toward him on a screen, just by thinking it.
Eric Giler: A demo of wireless electricityEric Giler: A demo of wireless electricityEric Giler demos wireless electricity
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2009
Eric Giler presents wireless electricity, which uses magnetic resonators to transfer power over large distances via a magnetic field. Watch at 6:30 to see a standard TV and three different smart phones powered wirelessly.
Michael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkableMichael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkableMichael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkable
On stage at: TEDGlobal 2009
Michael Pritchard introduces his portable 15-nm filters, which can capture the tiniest viruses and make water drinkable. At 3:30 Pritchard takes visibly disgusting water from the Thames, Cherwell and his own pond, runoff from a sewage farm, rabbit droppings and other delights, and pours it through his filter, then drinks the water. TED Curator Chris Anderson takes a swig as well.
Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technologyPranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technologyPranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology
On stage at: TEDIndia 2009
Pranav Mistry of MIT Media Lab talks about developing SixthSense, a gesture-interface device that allows you to replicate what you do in the physical world in the digital world. Long before Microsoft Kinect, Mistry showed how he could treat any wall as a digital interface and take pictures just by gesturing with his fingers.
Johnny Lee: Free or cheap Wii Remote hacksJohnny Lee: Free or cheap Wii Remote hacksJohnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks
On stage at: TED2008
At 1:40 Johnny Lee shows how to turn a Wii Remote into a digital whiteboard, touchscreen and a head-mounted 3D viewer, all for $40.
Blaise Agüera y Arcas: How PhotoSynth can connect the world's imagesBlaise Agüera y Arcas: How PhotoSynth can connect the world's imagesBlaise Aguera y Arcas demos Photosynth
On stage at: TED2007
Blaise Aguera y Arcas of Microsoft demoed Photosynth, a software which uses a giant database of static photos to allow you to navigate a space as if in 3D. It’s a fascinating demo — given pre-Google Street View.
Jeff Han: The radical promise of the multi-touch interfaceJeff Han: The radical promise of the multi-touch interfaceJeff Han demos his breakthrough touchscreen
On stage at: TED 2006
Well before Apple popularized multitouch technology with the iPhone, Jeff Han had built his own high resolution, low cost and scalable multi-touch screen, shown here.

Note: This post originally published before TED2013. It was updated on April 16, 2014.

Comments (8)

  • Alessandro Rosa commented on Apr 16 2014

    I would add this demo to the list. It is brilliant, and anyone who has a basic understanding of how the adaptive immune system works will understand why this could be such a profound technological advance in disease control.

  • Kg Soman commented on Nov 19 2013

    IT IS A Request to the Public

    A man who predict globel findings, means New Earth, New Universe and as the case may be He predicted so many things like Japan Earth quake, appearence of Shumaker Levy, Rajastan Hot Teperature, Water in Mars, etc etc before any scientist or research org found. All predictions made one week to 4 years before. Finally now He predictedthat there is an Universe with Planets, There is an earth larger than 14 times than our earth. He found the people who lives with small family. Their languages , vehicles every thing he describes and he Published a book in the year 2010,

    wheb he sit on meditation his body become so hot and viewing the things as originally. He says that the earth ( DEMIGO-named the new earth) is having little rivers, forests, four winged birds, zebras, plants, fruits etc.

    My Request is that Mr. Praveen Mistry can find some equipments for this lairvoiance visualization.If he does the same it may a very big achieves in the world. could you please try?

    I am, .G.Soman , Generalsecretary of B.K.Research Association for EXTRA SENSRY PERCEPION. Please contact +91 9496773205


  • John Hoggan commented on Oct 12 2013

    I really love these tech demos. Any graphical ones though?

  • Pingback: Sixth Sense Technology by Pranav Mistry | upwardandforward

  • Piotr Powtruczin commented on Feb 22 2013

    A firm called Legit Script ( claims to be protecting people by labeling legitimate Canadian and other non-U.S. pharmacies as “Unapproved” or “Rogue.” This serves the big pharmaceutical interests but not the American consumer. More than that, its founder, John Horton, appears to have exploited his former government position to establish for his own gain.

    The Set Up:

    In 2007, John Horton worked in the Bush White House as Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). As Horton’s LinkedIn page (accessed 3/3/2010) states:

    “I served as the primary staff person responsible for advising the “Drug Czar” and coordinating federal policy on several issues, including prescription drug-related issues (including Internet pharmacy policy) and several chemical control issues. I authored the Administration’s National Synthetic Drug Control Strategy and co-authored the President’s National Drug Control Strategy in the years from 2002 until 2007.”

    Congress had called for a report from ONDCP to propose a “strategy to stop advertisements that provide information about obtaining over the Internet drugs…without the use of a lawful prescription” (Our emphasis). Moreover, Congress’ request was limited in scope to controlled substances. Horton, as the chief staff person on this assignment, apparently switched the focus of the report from preventing access to controlled medicines without prescriptions (with which PharmacyChecker fully agrees) to denying Americans access to any type of medicine, even with a valid prescription, if coming from a Canadian pharmacy. The absurdity of this switch is that reputable licensed Canadian pharmacies require prescriptions and won’t even sell controlled substances to Americans. We believe this switch was encouraged by big pharmaceutical interests, who make less money when drugs are purchased at lower cost outside the U.S. To achieve their purpose, the report took aim at search engines as well as The ONDCP’s paper stated:

    “Both Google and Yahoo use a third-party system called (located at Compare prescription drug prices and online pharmacy ratings.) to verify whether websites seeking to advertise an online pharmacy are legitimate. However, PharmacyChecker has approved several websites from Canada that may be operating lawfully in Canada, but offer prescription drugs to United States consumers…”

    The paper noted that “not all VIPPS pharmacies appear to be recognized in the PharmacyChecker system.” [VIPPS is the verification program of the National Boards of Pharmacy in the U.S. and excludes Canadian pharmacies from membership.] The paper goes onto to draw the baseless conclusion that, “For all these reasons, PharmacyChecker is not an adequate, reliable verification system…”

    Approving safe, lawful Canadian pharmacies which require prescriptions certainly does not make “inadequate” or “unreliable.” Quite the contrary. Nevertheless, the paper lays out the plan that we believe Horton hatched, promoted and attempted to execute for the past three years:

    “The DEA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or ONDCP will meet with the major Internet advertising services (Google, Yahoo and others) to encourage voluntary action such that only online pharmacies in compliance with Federal and State laws are advertised through the major Internet advertising services. Search engines will be requested to voluntarily adopt standards that comply and encourage consumer compliance with Federal and State laws and regulations, and Boards of Pharmacy standards. This will be done in consultation with the State Boards of Pharmacy through the NABP.”

    As we see it, Horton was setting the stage for his company,, to use this “U.S. only” standard to displace as the leading certifier of online pharmacies and to pressure the search engines into blocking advertising of lower cost pharmacies in Canada and elsewhere. While Horton was a government employee, on March 20, 2007 his company’s domain name was registered: WHOIS domain registration information from Network Solutions. On April 16, 2007, Horton’s government office submitted the paper quoted above to Congress and, having planted the seed, Horton immediately left office and registered LegitScript as a for-profit company in Virginia and, later, as a not-for-profit entity in his home state of Oregon.

    This chronology indicates, at least to us, that Horton manipulated and exploited his position as Deputy Director of a White House office for his personal gain. This raises a question in our view of whether his conduct violated The US Office of Government Ethics’ Misuse of Position policy which states that “Executive branch employees must not use their public office for their own or another’s private gain.”

    Misleading Reports:

    Horton apparently approached the search engines and others to promote the use of LegitScript and/or VIPPS in place of (and it’s not surprising that VIPPS now endorses LegitScript as a reputable verification service). Perhaps rebuffed by these companies, Horton issued two reports, each focused on a different search engine, and each claiming that over 80% of pharmacy advertisers found were “illegal” or “rogue” when, in fact, most of these were licensed foreign pharmacies selling real medicine and requiring prescriptions.

    From his trumped up research, Horton went on to make the outrageous accusation that search engines were “sponsors” of rogue Internet pharmacies tied to “foreign (mainly Russian, Eastern Europe, and Chinese) organized criminal networks that are thought to fund other illicit activities including, in some cases, terrorism.” There is little doubt that’s intention was to embarrass the search engines and cast doubt on the Verification Program.

    Horton’s Real Business:

    Despite LegitScript’s efforts, traffic to its site has been scant — less than 900 unique visitors per month in January 2010, compared to 104,000 per month to (’s (rank #217,488) Site Profile | Compete). However, as we see it, Horton’s purpose was not to help consumers find safe and affordable pharmacies, but to help deny Americans, especially the uninsured, access to lower priced medications. He has revealed his purpose in several ways: He dissolved LegitScript as a non-profit organization in Oregon on April 8th, 2009 and then registered LegitScript as a for-profit LLC on August 17th, 2009. At the same time, records at the Oregon Secretary of State Corporation Division show that Horton registered a firm called Evergreen Government Relations, giving the same address as LegitScript, apparently expecting to cash in on his government connections and influence on the behalf of corporate clients. A week earlier, on August 10th 2009, he abandoned his registration at the U.S. Trademark Office to use “LegitScript Certified” as a certification mark for Internet pharmacies. Working for companies to get government agencies to pressure search engines and domain registers is where the action is for John Horton.

    Making Money: adamantly denies that it is a “front for big PhRMA” and claims that it is funded by its employees. But unlike pharmacy verification groups like VIPPS and, it does not charge pharmacies a fee for its verification service. So where does its revenue come from, or where does Horton get the money to fund it? The website says it offers “market research reports” regarding the Internet pharmacy and online pharmaceuticals markets. And who might be the customers of such “research”? We think it’s fair to assume that its big pharma, including big US pharmacies. may not expect to make money from its verification program, and it doesn’t care because its money may come from elsewhere.

    Be On the Look Out:

    If releases other “research reports,” keep in mind John Horton’s real agenda. And if search engines exclude safe, low cost pharmacies from advertising (and one recently did) or, worse yet, block them from appearing at all, we believe that and John Horton, serving his masters, may have had a hand in it.

  • john jerry commented on Feb 20 2013


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