On 8 September 2011 I attended TEDxBristol, an independently organised TED conference showcasing local leaders in the fields of sustainability, innovation and creativity. The event was held at Bristol’s newly-opened Mshed in a waterfront area that is quickly becoming a creative hub for digital industries.
The theme for the event was the World Around Us. A particular strength of Bristol enterprise is the ability to work both at a global and local level.
- Wendy Stephenson, a renewable energy engineer, described how The Converging World helped a small Somerset village, Chew Magna, build wind turbines in India to offset their carbon emissions.
- Tony Bury, a philanthropist and serial entrepreneur, explained the difference a mentor can make. His charity, The Mowgli Foundation, matches mentors with entrepreneurs in South West UK, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
- Richard Noble of Bloodhound CC entertainingly explained how they found themselves inspiring the next generation of engineers as part of their efforts to obtain a Eurofighter jet engine. The Bloodhound Education Programme involves over 2,410 primary and secondary schools, 176 further education colleges and 33 universities. Their journey to build a 1000mph car is now gathering pace, with tests due to begin in just over a year. They are aptly based just behind the SS Great Britain in Bristol Docklands.
- Professor Mervyn Miles presented some of the Centre’s current research including some mind-bending work on a holoassembler. This device use optical traps of focused near infra-red radiation, positioned in space via a dynamic hologram, to assemble microscopic, and even nanoscopic, structures. Researchers have combined this technology with a multi-touch interface to create a system that would not look out of place in a science fiction film.
- Tom’s talk provided a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of a private inventor. Over the last 10 years Tom has worked on a 360 degree camera for capturing immersive images (a “BubbleScope”). Tom explained his journey from his initial inspriation while travelling to his current iPhone pre-production accessory.
The event also featured preformances that built upon another of the West Country’s strengths: an ability to combine technology and the arts to produce truly original creations.
- nu desine, a young start-up from Bristol, showed off their AlphaSphere musical instrument. Their presentation also produced one of my favourite quotes from the event: “I don’t rap, I’m an electronic engineer”.
- David Glowacki, a theoretical chemist at the University of Bristol, demonstrated his Danceroom Spectroscopy project. This fuses theoretical Feynmann-Hibbs molecular dynamics simulations with a 3D imaging camera to allow the motion of dancers to warp the external forcefields felt by the simulated particles. The result is projected onto a screen with collisions mapped onto a muscial output. View it here.
- Tom Mitchell and Imogen Heap ended the day with a demonstration of Tom’s musical gloves. These gloves allow wearers to manipulate music using just hand gestures. The result is unbelievable; you can watch the performance here.
In all, the day was a resounding success. A big thank you to Karl Belizaire, the event orgnaiser and his team. Hopefully those that attended were inspired to create their own impact in Bristol and the wider World Around Us.