At TED, walking among the digerati

The annual conference on Thursday is offering a mix of physical and computer artistry, film production techniques, and clean-energy invention, all with an innovative twist.

Daniel Sieberg
3 min read

The day started with a soothing performance by Deepak Ram, master of the bansuri, an Indian wooden flute. But the meditative state didn't last long as day two of the often mind-blowing TED got under way. (In case you aren't familiar with TED just click here.)

On Thursday there was a mix of physical and computer artistry, film production techniques, and clean-energy invention on tap with a focus on looking beyond current models of innovation. The ideas abound at TED, and it can be a rather dizzying experience. Every time you turn around another luminary is discussing their vision for the future or the latest approach to solving a major world problem. Granted, it's all heady stuff, and much of it may not leave the walls of TED. It's also a unique conference in that media is not really front and center, and interviews are generally only for the presenters and in a specific area of the conference. That's just the way it works at TED. But there are still plenty of fascinating moments to talk about and report on.

For example, digital artist Golan Levin showcased a unique mix of audio/video interaction, like an 8-foot-long tubular and robotic "eye" that watched people enter a building. I know it sounds a little "out there," but it really highlighted the way we interact with other "beings" that may be watching us.

Olafur Elliasson mused about his waterfalls project that involved building large flowing water installations at sites through New York City. He said the waterfalls helped give the city a "sense of dimension," but adding a different perspective on the iconic skyline.

And producer Ed Ulbrich with Digital Domain reviewed the way Brad Pitt was aged about 40 years in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button through new facial-mapping technology. The key, he said, was finding ways to capture 100,000 polygons or facial markers versus just 100.

Another highlight for the science community, professor Joann Kuchera-Morin offered a look inside the AlloSphere at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It's a three-story, spherical viewing station or immersive microscope where researchers can analyze everything from cells to electrons in a 3D manner. It's meant as an illuminating way of seeing medicine or engineering from a totally different perspective.

And there was a compelling presentation from visionary Shai Agassi who presented a clean-air future with electric cars in many homes. A tricky road ahead, but Agassi believes it's the best alternative and far better than hydrogen or other ideas on the drawing board. Tonight also involves the "wish" component of TED. That means awarding the TED Prizes to oceanographer Sylvia Earle, SETI founder Jill Tarter, and musician Jose Anthonio Abreu, and giving them $100,000 to do with as they choose. They will all reveal their projects for the prize money during their sessions tonight. You can find a link to the live Web cast here. There will be introductions by former Vice President Al Gore, Quincy Jones, and Richard Branson.

In the meantime, stay connected.

Daniel Sieberg reports on computers and technology for CBS News.