Richard Branson: Life at 30000ft

Fantastic interview with Richard Branson at TED – Monterey. The humility of the man blows me away.

My biggest takeaway quote from this:

Genuinely, if I bought something or had a particularly bad service in something that I did, I would go and do something myself to fix the problem. Like the time, I flew an airline, and I got really bad customer service, and Virgin Atlantic was born.


Just viewed a TED talk called “The silent drama of Photography.” Though the talk by Sebastiao Salgado is about a moving story about how he dropped a career as an economist (PhD in economics) and got into photography, how photography almost killed him, how he got back to photography ; the talk has a deep call to action — bring back the forests.

Sebastiao is not a native English speaker (he is Brazilian), but he presents beautifully. At a whole new level. Being a big presentation enthusiast, some of my observations are:

  • Beautifully simple language. No complicated words, talks, jargon.
  • Punctuated by short periods of showing photographs. Two things stood out here. Each time he wanted to show some photographs, his tone would be of such humility that it would almost be like, requesting to indulge him a bit. Second thing was, he did not speak a word during those photographs. No description. When he took it. Why? Who? Nothing. He let the photographs sink in to the audience. Powerful technique.
  • Body language showing a lot of sincerity.
  • Just one joke, but that too, bringing a deep meaning to it. About how trees help soak water for us. (Relating it to drying hair for people with normal hair vs his bald head).
  • Call to arms. At the end of the talk, he says – “It is easy. I did it. And so can you.”. Collectively we can do it. In a very non intrusive way, he also says, we did it in Brazil, but it looks like you guys (in America) need it too. So get going. Do it.

Happiness -> Success

A fantastic TED talk from Shawn Achor about how happiness leads to success, and not the other way around. Most of us are conditioned to think the other way. If we get a job, we need a better job. If we buy a house, we need a bigger house. The elusive happiness then becomes a dream that is “just out of reach” forever.

More than this message, I would like to draw attention to his presentation style. Funny. Engaging. Wonderfully rehearsed, yet natural. You would not even realize when he gave the message. He just “plants” it in you.

Wearable sixth sense device

You have to watch this TED video of a wearable sixth sense device. It consists of a portable projector, which projects on natural surfaces, and a webcam, both slung on your neck. These are pretty small, and do not seem to be very clunky. (They are off the shelf components). The demo shows some cool things like (a) the webcam identifying a plane ticket, and then projecting on the ticket, if the flight is delayed or if the gate has changed ; (b) the wearer making gestures to take photographs, and the cam taking photographs ; and then later on, the user projects these on the wall, and does cool things like resizing, organizing etc.

Breathing life into animation

What happens when you put a team of physicists, biologists, AI (artificial intelligence) scientists, and software engineers in a room? Pretty incredible things actually. In the following video, where Torsten Reil unveils the kinds of beautiful mix of genetic algorithms, simulations of the human neural systems, and how they work with the motor sensors of our body. This could create some awesome things. Some applications he reveals are:

  1. More realistic video games
  2. Animated stunt men for dangerous stunts in movies (being blown by dynamite etc)
  3. Helping surgeons predict outcome of operations for cerebral palsy etc.

Look at the video for some breathtaking animations.

Pretty incredible eh? Brilliant, I should say. Torsten has realized that, this is has economic potential and has started his own company called Natural Motion. Go to his website here.

Update: While you are there at the website, check out both the euphoria demo and the backbreaker demo. You do not need to download the demo and see. Just click on the embedded videos.

Update2: I also see on the website, that this technology is already into some xbox and PS3 games. That is what gives these games a realistic edge.