So … I’m a TEDster.
Just back in from TEDx Dublin. I’ll provide more detail in a later posting, but here’s a quick overview. 100 or so of us in the auditorium in the Science Gallery in Dublin, with an overflow video feed room next door. Three speakers and two video talks for an excellent hour and 40 minutes in all.

TEDx Dublin twittered its way into life as a result of Dr Aaron Quigley from my alma mater sticking a couple of 140 character musings up into the cloud some 18 days ago. Some of the nice folks in the Science Gallery saw his, “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” tweets and said, “Why, you can do the show right here in the barn!” [pretty nice barn by the way] then TED HQ said, “You’ve got some peeps? You’ve got a barn? A speaker or two? Go fer it dude!” [I may be paraphrasing fractionally, but you catch my drift]

Dr Scott Rickard kicked then night off with a jaw-dropping demonstration of his sound separation software, DUET. My takeaways:

  • Someone putting on a Michael Bolton track in your house is grounds for justifiable homicide.
  • Subtraction and division are advanced mathematics. Knowing that, I feel so much better about my performance in secondary school.
  • Scott did a canned demo of the separation on the fly with a John Coltrane track. This was just a piece of a track from a Coltrane CD that he ripped and then did his separation magic on:

Red for sax, yellow for piano, cyan for bass and blue for drums. He then topped that in a big way by getting three TEDsters to babble into a fixed stereo mic in three languages (Spanish, Irish and, unless I am sorely mistaken, Klingon) and then separated out the sources – perfectly! – live and on the spot. I’ll never feel safe grousing at a family party again.

First video talk was the demo of the Sixth Sense by Pattie Maes from the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT Media Lab. A great talk, if you haven’t seen it already – link here.

Then our tame Kiwi, Mark Billinghurst from the HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury gave an excellent overview of the background, relevance, and future applicability of Accessible Augmented Reality. “Bringing AR to the Masses” looked at getting over the technology, will and funding hurdles for this world-changing interface. I liked his read on the Gartner Hype Cycle and the trough of disillusionment [isn’t that The Dip by a much longer name?] as it applied to his technology:

His video clips were excellent and I look forward to seeing them again when TEDx Dublin is hosted and posted. I loved the fact that all this arose because Mark was disappointed to find that the VR holographic communication from Star Wars did not exist in reality.

I look forward to the Virtual IKEA catalogue. Mark finished with some very cool lessons learnt from his time working on this Reality:

Video number two was the infectious and effervescent Robert Full talking about Biomutualism – where evolution can teach engineers and vice versa. A fascinating talk on the adhesive power of the Geckos’s foot and the multivarious functionality of its tail and how the engineers learnt so much from the biologists in this mutual exploration.

The final speaker of the night was Blaise Aguera y Arcas [he of the amazing Photosynth demo from TED 2007] talking about recent developments in that space in a talk entitled: Cyberspace arriving – Using computer vision to reconstruct and connect the world.

Blaise gave us some insight into the challenges underlying the Photosynth project. Yes, there are 88,000 images of Piazza Navona available after a simple Bing search [ 🙂 ], but the vast majority of them are below 1 megapixel (way too small) and nearly all of them are taken from the same shooting position (way too lacking in imagination), with the result that you end up with a few major clusters of information, but far too many disconnects to synthesise the pics. He illustrated this problem with some analysis of the pics available for Ta Prohm, one of the lesser-known temples at Angkor Wat:

A couple of nice big detailed clusters (basically the front and back doors) with a little bit of ‘connective tissue’ between them, but nowhere near enough to make for a comprehensive synth. You simply cannot wander around Angkor Wat using Flickr photos.

Bummer.

However, he noted that the very existence of the PhotoSynth technology and site is causing some photographers to alter their behaviour and showed examples of individuals who had become almost Terminator-like with their grids of shots of major locations – systematically quartering the site from every angle.

An excellent talk, showing us the potential of this exciting new tool. As Blaise put it,

“PhotoSynth can grant us superpowers. Soon, we will be able to teleport anywhere in the world, extending our abilities and our senses, our perceptions and understanding of the world around us.”

Roll on TEDx Dublin 2 …