Technology TEDx

In place of a new TED Talk from Magic Leap, we bring you …

This morning, Chris Anderson announced that Rony Abovitz of the start-up Magic Leap, who’d planned to join us here at TED2015, has cancelled his appearance for, as Chris says, “Reasons unknown.”

Up to now, Magic Leap has become known for two things in the tech world: 1) generating hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and 2) keeping a lot of secrets. The company’s founders have been famously guarded about what their product is exactly, let alone how it will work. As a result, the brand stands on equal measures of excitement and confusion — quite possibly the best kind of buzz.

But we’ve known about Abovitz’s flair for obfusc drama for years. He gave a TEDx Talk at a Florida event back in 2012. Or… well… not really a talk exactly. There is talking … but … also monsters. He’s in a spacesuit, and then there’s a rock band.

Yeah, it’s abstract. But the story of his TEDx performance doesn’t end there. In a recent feature in the MIT Technology Review, Abovitz “swears there is a coherent message embedded in it; figure it out, he says, and he’ll give you a yo-yo.”

So therein lies a challenge. Who among you can make sense of the Abovitz cipher? We’d planned to ask him about it after his talk, but now it’s up to you. To give you a headstart, here’s a moment-to-moment breakdown:

  1. Ethereal tones play as we dolly into a rendering of planet Earth from outer space; the North-South cardinal rests on the diagonal of the frame.
  1. Passing through clouds, the sun rises.
  1. On stage, two misshapen figures lurk in the shadows.
  1. Above the rolling clouds, the sun rises out of frame. Lens flare.
  1. A young John Lennon (or his doppelgänger) peers into a crescent frame, his guitar and recording equipment behind him.
  1. Back on stage, a spotlight sheds its light on a chocolate bar monolith; the wrapper reads, “Thwaxo’s Strangely Demented Space Fudge.”
  1. Monstrous creatures frolic in front of the monolith; Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustrablares; renderings of neurons fly across the screen; a Kubrick reference is discernible.
  1. The monsters continue their revelry as a video of them playing rock-paper-scissors rolls.
  1. A disembodied robot hand counts to five; the monsters altercate.
  1. A giant robotic wasp appears, seen through the green glow of night vision goggles.
  1. The red creature cowers, the green one explores the fudge monolith with his hands.
  1. Again in night vision, a women walks through a door.
  1. Nanobots in a floating seascape attach themselves to microscopic life.
  1. Abovitz appears in a spacesuit from stage right, walking with a wide gait as if unadapted to Earth’s gravity.
  1. Earth from above, again; the radio correspondence from the Apollo 11 moon landing plays.
  1. Binary code rolls across the screen.
  1. Abovitz finds the red carpet as Neil Armstrong says, “The Eagle has landed.”
  1. The music diminuendos; the monsters stand holding blank signs in parallel to space-man-Abovitz.
  1. The title slide appears on screen: “Imagination And Sensory Machines.”
  1. Abovitz speaks: “Greetings. A few awkward steps for me, a magic leap for mankind. Before I begin my talk today, I would like to present today’s ancient and magical keyword: [inaudible].”
  1. A rock band appears from the darkness behind them and blares electric noise and drums; the monsters flip through signs; every one reads: “FUDGE” appears in different fonts.
  1. A slideshow of grotesque, enigmatic illustrations and symbols plays.
  1. The singer yells, “Come on down.” His beard: impressive.
  1. Our monsters exhaust their fudge signs and frolic.
  1. The words “creativity matters” show on screen against a black background.
  1. The lights cut out and only the screen is visible.
  1. The audience pauses before applauding.
  1. Fade to black.

We hope that helps.