Live from TED2014

Meet EDI the Robot: Marco Tempest at TED2014

Posted by: Thu-Huong Ha
Marco Tempest and EDI the Robot. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Marco Tempest and EDI the Robot. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Techno-illusionist and veteran speaker Marco Tempest returns to the TED stage with a new friend: EDI (pronounced “Eddie”) the robot. EDI, which stands for Electronic Deceptive Intelligence, is Tempest’s latest techno-aide, a friendly Baxter robot who ponders the difference between artificial and human intelligence.

“Robot,” the newly awakened EDI interrupts, was coined in 1921 in a science-fiction story by Czech playwright Karel ńĆapek. It comes from “robota,” meaning “forced labor.” Says Tempest, mechanical robots of yore, the Victorians’ performing “thinking machines,” were mere illusions compared to today’s intelligent robots. EDI, on the other hand, is very real, with a 360-degree sonar detection system and two 7-axis arms.

Marco Tempest and EDI the Robot. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Marco Tempest and EDI the Robot. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Says Tempest, “We are intrigued by the possibility of creating a mechanical version of ourselves. The perfect robot would be indistinguishable from the human — and that scares us.” Since we can’t read the facial features of robots, for example, we can’t anticipate their actions — but that goes both ways. EDI agrees: “Humans are unpredictable. And irrational! I literally have no idea what you guys are going to do next.”

One way to build trust, grins Tempest, is through layers of deception. The duo reveal the charming grand finale: a classic ball-and-hat magic trick performed together.

(Bonus: Watch a behind-the-scenes clip of EDI the diva at the Vancouver Convention Centre.)