Technology

The best tech demos at TED

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 quadcopters Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters Raffaello 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 phone Keller Rinaudo: A mini robot -- powered by your phone Keller 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 superconductor Boaz Almog: The levitating superconductor Boaz 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 bird Markus Fischer: A robot that flies like a bird A 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 brainwaves Tan Le: A headset that reads your brainwaves Tan 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 electricity Eric Giler: A demo of wireless electricity Eric 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 drinkable Michael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkable Michael 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 technology Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology Pranav 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 hacks Johnny Lee: Free or cheap Wii Remote hacks Johnny 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 images Blaise Agüera y Arcas: How PhotoSynth can connect the world's images Blaise 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 interface Jeff Han: The radical promise of the multi-touch interface Jeff 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.