The overall theme of the event was “Forward: Charting the Future with Science.” It comprised 17 separate sessions grouped into 3 sections – Adapt, Change & Create – with Brian Cox as host.
The event was planned and executed very well: even when the occasional minor glitch occurred it only ended up adding fun to the proceedings.
The agenda was structured nicely, with a good progression of themes between sessions. I really liked the inclusion of 3 TED-Ed sessions on climate change, matter & anti-matter and cosmic rays, which apparently met the usual requirement for TEDx events also to show material from TED.com.
To give you a sense of the quality of the event, here’s a single sentence on each of the 17 live sessions.
Robert Crease talked about the challenges around using science to influence public policy and how best to succeed.
Tamsin Edwards talked about embracing and effectively communicating uncertainty around climate science.
Marcia Barbosa described the complexity of that most essential of resources – water – and how nano-tubes and materials inspired by African beetles can help make clean water more widely available.
Nina Federoff talked about the role of GMOs in feeding a future global population of 10 billion.
One of my favourite musician’s, Nitin Sawhney, talked about the connection between music and mathematics (he even used vedic mathematics to solve the cube root of 132,651 live on stage… awesome!) and performed with the very talented Nicki Wells.
Julia Greer talked about her team’s research into lightweight 3D nanostructures, and how materials at the nanoscale can have surprising properties.
Sonia Trigueros talked about how nanomedecine holds the promise to fight cancer in a much more targeted way than existing therapies.
Srikumar Bannerjee described how modern reactors and spent fuel reprocessing make nuclear energy the best choice for clean, abundant energy.
John Mighton talked about the difficulties he had learning mathematics as a child and how that inspired him to launch JUMP Math.
Andrew Nemr closed the second session with a tap dance accompanied by an explanation of why he dislikes labels.
Hayat Sindi started the second session by describing the importance of marrying science with social innovation.
Arthur Zang, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, presented a device he developed to help Cameroun’s cardiologists diagnose patients remotely.
Topher White talked about an innovative approach to alerting rangers in the rainforest to illegal logging activity – repurposing old mobile phones, powered by recycled solar panels, to detect humanly inaudible chainsaws.
Danielle Fong presented a technology her company has developed using compressed air to store energy harvested from intermittent, renewable sources.
Julien Lesgourges discussed how spectral analysis can be applied to pretty much anything – sound, images and even the universe – resulting in cosmologists having a better understanding of its composition.
Jamie Edwards, a 14-year-old schoolboy from Lancashire, talked entertainingly about how he convinced his school to allow – and even fund – his creation of a small nuclear reactor in its science lab.
Tim Exile remixed sounds from CERN and TEDxCERN itself as part of his live performance closing this fantastic event.
Oh yes, here’s a quick aerial shot showing where I was glued to my seat for the ~5 hours of presentations…
At the following social event I had a nice time chatting with Matteo Mazzeri, one of the organisers of TEDxGeneva. I'm looking forward to attending that event in April. And it seems I just missed TEDxBern, unfortunately... maybe it's time to think about helping organise a TEDxNeuchatel? :-).
I last went to CERN back in 1996 (although it may have been late 1995) for an ADGE conference. I think that ADGE stood for “Autodesk Developer Group Europe”, but the A might also have been for AUGI. Any old-timers out there who can confirm? (I’m sure Jeremy Tammik remembers. :-)
Anyway, the ADGE conference that year was held at CERN, which was really cool. As part of the entertainment we had a tour around the facilities, including the accelerator complex – although some time before construction of the Large Hadron Collider was started.
So here I find myself about to head back there this afternoon for TEDxCERN. This will be my second TEDx event this year, having attended TEDxLausanne back in February. Understandably, given the location, today’s programme looks to be a bit more “sciencey”, which is great. And there are at least a couple of names I already know from the list of speakers, which is another good sign.
Last week I spent a morning at SINDEX 2014, which is apparently Switzerland’s largest technology exhibition. Its main focus is on industrial electronics and automation: not exactly fields I know a lot about, but ones that I do find to be extremely interesting. There were 400 or so exhibitors, many focused on providing sensors and electrical equipment, others providing complete automation solutions.
There was a serious focus on robotics, for instance, something in which regular readers will know I have astronginterest. This post contains a few examples of the robots that were on show.
This robot, from Stäubli, is moving boxes of Tic Tacs around at high speed. Yes, the video is in no way sped up – it really moved that quickly.
Increasing the ability for robots to function more autonomously typically involves computer vision and image processing techniques, a very cool – and increasingly important – part of the technology landscape. Some of the most interesting exhibits, for me, were the ones using integrated depth cameras (e.g. Kinect), laser scanners or just basic image processing to enhance a robot’s ability to deal with varying situations.
… where the robot is picking parts out of a bin based on input from a laser scanner:
The system scans the top level of the bin and matches portions of the point cloud against a known 3D model of the part. That way the robot can effectively position itself to pick up the “best” part from the bin and then go ahead and do something with it.
If you look at the above video – at around the 45 second mark – you can see a physical debugging console showing the code the robot’s controller is stepping through. Apparently most manufacturers have their own (often quite arcane) languages for robotic control (again – not a field I have experience with… I’d be very happy to get comments from people who do). It was certainly very interesting to see the code in action.
Of course there were a number of fun technology demonstrations that have no serious, practical purpose – and yet demonstrate the technology’s potential – something I admit I like a great deal (check my next post for one more example of this ;-).
It was programmed to play a number of other tunes, too. Fun stuff!
Martin Müller made a very valid comment that the Xylobot is in some ways quite ugly: not necessarily in terms of its physical appearance but in terms of its perfect precision. I expect it’d be possible to program in a little imperfection, of course – if the goal was to make the performance more “human” – but that clearly wasn’t the point of this particular technology demonstration.
This reminded me of another video I took of some more “sensitive” robots, though, this time made by KUKA. These are not only elegant from a design perspective but from the “care” with which they can perform intricate tasks. Perhaps not beautiful in the way they replicate human imperfection, but nonetheless impressive…
Now that registration is open for Autodesk University 2014, people are busy signing up for classes. For those of you who are curious about the classes I’m delivering/hosting/attending at this year’s event, here they are. I’ll break things down day-by-day, in case you’re interested in finding an opportunity to meet up but can’t attend one of my sessions.
Monday (Dec 1st)
I’ll be attending the ADN DevDay, allday. Always lots of great information to absorb there, of course (jetlag permitting ;-).
Tuesday (Dec 2nd)
I’ll be hanging out at the ADN DevHack for most of the afternoon, although I will be heading across to host the ever-popular Meet the AutoCAD API Experts panel session (yes, Stephen Preston asked me to stand in for him, this year) from 3-4pm. I’m also planning to attend my teammate Albert Szilvasy’s AutoCAD Core Engine via HTTP session at 5-6pm: I’ve seen most of Albert’s presentation delivered at an internal conference, but I’m interested in hearing more about recent progress that has been made as well as the audience’s thoughts on how this service might be used in practice.
A usual I’m very much looking forward to this year’s AU. It’s always a great opportunity to meet new people, catch up with old friends and learn more about how customers and developers are using Autodesk technology to do important – and often incredible – things. If you’re interested in talking about your use of Autodesk technology – maybe you’re having challenges that future posts on this blog might be able to help with, for instance – then please let me know. I’m sure we can find some time to sit down and chat.
To close, here’s my personal tag-line for the conference:
“ExhAUsting yet invigAUrating, come to AU!”
(And that’s why you shouldn’t let technical people do marketing. ;-)
After initially holding DevCamps annually in 2007 and 2008, we’ve now settled down to the more regular rhythm of every other year (the last set was in 2010). Which means, of course, it’s time to do them again. :-)
As already reported by Geoff, Heidi, Jeremy and Shaan, here is some information regarding this year’s DevCamps:
When: June 6-7, with a DevLab on June 8
Where: Boston, Massachusetts – near Autodesk’s AEC Division headquarters
Cost: early bird discount fee of US $500 valid to April 30, 2012, thereafter US $600
When: June 13-14, with a DevLab on June 15
Where: Portland, Oregon – near Autodesk’s Manufacturing Division headquarters
Cost: early bird discount fee of US $500 valid to April 30, 2012, thereafter US $600
You probably don’t need me to extoll the virtues of these events – hopefully those are evident from the other posts – but I will just say that they are really great opportunity both to acquire technical knowledge and to network, whether with other people interested in software development, with members of the ADN team, with the product managers and software developers defining and building our products, or even with Autodesk’s divisional heads.
A particular area of focus, this year, will be on web and mobile technology, which reflects the shift our industry is going through. That doesn’t mean we’ll have less focus on our desktop software, though: expect excellent information on developing for those, too, aimed both at beginners and experts.
To stay abreast of the event details as they get nailed down (such as the specific agenda, registration information, etc.) be sure to email Melrose Ross, stating your full name and the company name.
As those of you following me on Twitter may know, I spent Monday morning at Milan Design Week. I had a couple of reasons for being in Milan at this time. Firstly, my grandmother now lives there, so I spent Sunday evening (the evening of her birthday) with her and my Milan-resident family.
The second reason was Milan Design Week. In recent weeks I’ve been in touch with a Swedish designer, Staffan Holm, who I knew would be exhibiting at SaloneSatellite during this year’s Milan Design Week. SaloneSatellite is the general-admission (i.e. it’s free to get in) section of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile and showcases the work of promising young designers.
I had contacted Staffan after reading about his work on David Report and seeing Staffan’s manufacturing process in action. During our correspondence I learned Staffan would be exhibiting in Milan and it seemed like a good opportunity for us to get together and talk about his use of design technology. Staffan has an interesting design philosophy: he focuses on emotional sustainability, which means going beyond the practical to acknowledge and explore the attachment we feel for beautiful objects. This is evident from his Milk stool, which is really a stunningly beautiful piece of furniture – an elegant design flawlessly executed – but also from his Precious project, where he focuses on bringing a new lease of life to objects that have been damaged or broken. What’s especially interesting to me is Staffan’s use of 3D scanning and printing, technologies that are becoming increasingly affordable and ubiquitous.
(I have a deep interest in design… my grandfather was a printer/photographer and my father a graphic designer, so I feel as though I’ve been surrounded by design in some way for most of my life. Even though I decided a long time ago to focus on a career in software, I’ve found over the years that working for a design software company such as Autodesk is a perfect fit for my background and interests. Which is one of the reasons I’m still here… :-)
Anyway, I’m really glad I decided to make my first visit to Milan Design Week. The SaloneSatellite show was really interesting – full of interesting products from upcoming (primarily furniture) designers. Staffan shared a stand with Daniel Rybakken, who won this year’s best in show award for surface daylight, a very cool LED-based lamp that gives the effect of daylight striking the surface of a canvas. Daniel talked to me about the use of LED and how what is often perceived as a cold light - especially when you place an LED-based bulb in a standard lamp - can actually give a much warmer feel if set in the right context.