TED Talks about Robots and Robotics (Part 1)

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I'm a huge fan of TED Talks -- high production quality talks given by the world's thought leaders, recorded and distributed for all after the annual TED conference.  I've noticed that robotics is a perennial hot topic, so naturally I thought: "I should build a compendium of TED talks about robotics (all on one page)."  And so here it is... all 21 of the TED talks that have graced the TED.com frontpage to date.  But alas, TED has expanded beyond the confines of the annual (expensive!) conference.  There are now dozens of TEDx events (independently organized TED meetups) around the world, and robots are equally popular at these satellite events.  So... I guess this will just have to be turned into a series.  These videos should get you started.  Enjoy!

Ultimately, I'll update this post with links to subsequent parts here.  If you just can't wait, there are ~50 additional TEDx talks about robotics and even some TEDMED robotics talks (like this one by Colin Angle) if you search around.  But this set should get you started.  To prevent a massive inundation of Flash video loads, I've embedded the videos in drop-down (Javascript) divs.  You should be able to watch the videos from this page if you click the links (and give 'em a moment to load).

Oh, and a brief self-serving note to Mr. Chris Anderson (curator of TED): I'd be very happy to attend the conference next year.  Think you could swing an invite?  I'm always available to give a talk too...  ;-)

Now, in no particular order...

Markus Fischer


Bill Stone


Hod Lipson

Caleb Chung


Rodney Brooks


P.W. Singer

Catherine Mohr


Golan Levin


David Hanson

Eythor Bender


Heather Knight


Cynthia Breazeal

Charles Elachi


Sebastian Thrun


Theo Jansen

Dennis Hong (#1)


Dennis Hong (#2)


Dean Kamen

Robert Full (#1)


Robert Full (#2)


Péter Fankhauser





Markus Fischer: A robot that flies like a bird


Markus Fischer from Festo  Festo Robot Bird  Festo Robot Bird

Plenty of robots can fly -- but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. A soaring demo fresh from TEDGlobal 2011.

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Bill Stone: Journey to the center of the Earth ... and beyond!


Bill Stone built DepthX Robot Submarine  DepthX Robot Submarine  DepthX Robot Submarine

Bill Stone, a maverick cave explorer who has plumbed Earth's deepest abysses, discusses his efforts to mine lunar ice for space fuel and to build an autonomous robot for studying Jupiter's moon Europa.

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Hod Lipson: Robots that are "self-aware"


Hod Lipson  Hod Lipson's Modular Robots  Hod Lipson's Robot's Learn to Walk

Hod Lipson demonstrates a few of his cool little robots, which have the ability to learn, understand themselves and even self-replicate.

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Caleb Chung: Come play with Pleo the dinosaur


Caleb Chung of Furby and Pleo Fame  Pleo, the Dinosaur Robot  An early prototype of the Pleo Dinosaur Robot

Pleo the robot dinosaur acts like a living pet -- exploring, cuddling, playing, reacting and learning. Inventor Caleb Chung talks about Pleo and his wild toy career at EG07, on the week that Pleo shipped to stores for the first time.

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Rodney Brooks: How robots will invade our lives


Rodney Brooks of MIT  Kismet Robot  Cog Robot

In this prophetic talk from 2003, roboticist Rodney Brooks talks about how robots are going to work their way into our lives -- starting with toys and moving into household chores ... and beyond.

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P.W. Singer: Military robots and the future of war


PW Singer: Author of "Wired for War"  Global Hawk UAV  Packbot-like Robot

In this powerful talk, P.W. Singer shows how the widespread use of robots in war is changing the realities of combat. He shows us scenarios straight out of science fiction -- that now may not be so fictitious.

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Catherine Mohr: Surgery's past, present and robotic future


Catherine Mohr  Da Vinci Surgical Robot  Robot Suturing Diagram

Surgeon and inventor Catherine Mohr tours the history of surgery (and its pre-painkiller, pre-antiseptic past), then demos some of the newest tools for surgery through tiny incisions, performed using nimble robot hands. Fascinating -- but not for the squeamish.

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Golan Levin: Golan Levin makes art that looks back at you


Golan Levin  Optoisolator Robot  Snout Robot

Golan Levin, an artist and engineer, uses modern tools -- robotics, new software, cognitive research -- to make artworks that surprise and delight. Watch as sounds become shapes, bodies create paintings, and a curious eye looks back at the curious viewer.

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David Hanson: Robots that "show emotion"


David Hanson  Life-like Robot Faces  Einstein Robot Face

David Hanson's robot faces look and act like yours: They recognize and respond to emotion, and make expressions of their own. Here, an "emotional" live demo of the Einstein robot offers a peek at a future where robots truly mimic humans.

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Dennis Hong: My seven species of robot


Dennis Hong  Hydras Robot by Dennis Hong  Misc. Robot by Dennis Hong

At TEDxNASA, Dennis Hong introduces seven award-winning, all-terrain robots -- like the humanoid, soccer-playing DARwIn and the cliff-gripping CLIMBeR -- all built by his team at RoMeLa, Virginia Tech. Watch to the end to hear the five creative secrets to his lab's incredible technical success.

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Heather Knight:  Silicon-based comedy


Heather Knight  Nao Robot Performing Comedy  Nao Robot Performing Comedy

In this first-of-its-kind demo, Heather Knight introduces Data, a robotic stand-up comedian that does much more than rattle off one-liners -- it gathers audience feedback (using software co-developed with Scott Satkin and Varun Ramakrishna at CMU) and tunes its act as the crowd responds. Is this thing on?

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Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots


Cynthia Breazeal  Leonardo Robot from MIT  MeBot: The expressive robot cellphone from MIT

As a grad student, Cynthia Breazeal wondered why we were using robots on Mars, but not in our living rooms. The key, she realized: training robots to interact with people. Now she dreams up and builds robots that teach, learn -- and play. Watch for amazing demo footage of a new interactive game for kids.

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Eythor Bender: Demoing human exoskeletons


Eythor Bender  HULC Exoskeleton  Exoskeletons for Rehabilitation

Eythor Bender of Berkeley Bionics brings onstage two amazing exoskeletons, HULC and eLEGS -- robotic add-ons that could one day allow a human to carry 200 pounds without tiring, or allow a wheelchair user to stand and walk. It's a powerful onstage demo, with implications for human potential of all kinds.

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Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers


Dennis Hong  Blind Person Driving  Blind Person Driving

Using robotics, laser rangefinders, GPS and smart feedback tools, Dennis Hong is building a car for drivers who are blind. It's not a "self-driving" car, he's careful to note, but a car in which a non-sighted driver can determine speed, proximity and route -- and drive independently.

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Dean Kamen: New prosthetic arm for veterans


Dean Kamen  Luke Arm  Luke Arm

Inventor Dean Kamen previews the prosthetic arm he's developing at the request of the US Department of Defense. His quiet commitment to using technology to solve problems -- while honoring the human spirit -- has never been more clear.

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Charles Elachi: The story of the Mars Rovers


Charles Elachi  Mars Rover  Phoenix Lander

At Serious Play 2008, Charles Elachi shares stories from NASA's legendary Jet Propulsion Lab -- including tales and video from the Mars Rover project.

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Sebastian Thrun: Google's driverless car


Sebastian Thrun  Google self-driving car  Stanford's Stanley: The Self-Driving Car

Sebastian Thrun helped build Google's amazing driverless car, powered by a very personal quest to save lives and reduce traffic accidents. Jawdropping video shows the DARPA Challenge-winning car motoring through busy city traffic with no one behind the wheel, and dramatic test drive footage from TED2011 demonstrates how fast the thing can really go.

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Robert Full: Animal Movement


Robert Full -- Roboticist  Gecko Feet  RHEX Robot Underwater

Biologist Robert Full shares slo-mo video of some captivating critters. Take a closer look at the spiny legs that allow cockroaches to scuttle across mesh and the nanobristle-packed feet that let geckos to run straight up walls.

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Robert Full: Engineering and Evolution


Robert Full  Mecho Gecko Robot  Early RHEX Prototype

Insects and animals have evolved some amazing skills -- but, as Robert Full notes, many animals are actually over-engineered. The trick is to copy only what's necessary. He shows how human engineers can learn from animals' tricks.

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Theo Jansen: Creating New Creatures


Theo Jansen  Theo Walker  Theo Walker

Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move -- and even survive -- on their own.

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Péter Fankhauser: Meet Rezero, the dancing ballbot


Peter Fankhauser  Balancing "Ball" Robot  Applications for Balancing "Ball" Robot

Onstage at TEDGlobal, Péter Fankhauser demonstrates Rezero, a robot that balances on a ball. Designed and built by a group of engineering students, Rezero is the first ballbot made to move quickly and gracefully -- and even dance.

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Note: The videos above are in expandable Javascript drop-downs to prevent a huge number of videos from autoloading. After the page completely loads, you should be able to click the "expand" links to load and watch the videos; if for some reason things aren't working, be sure to contact us. The code to perform this operation was obtained from RandomSnippets.com.



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