TEDx Berlin Inspires in Surprising Surroundings

By David Knight |

IFA probably doesn’t grab the attention of most startups. One of the world’s largest consumer electronics trade fairs, it is currently taking place at the ICC convention center in the west of Berlin. Full of men in suits and corporate giants, the fair – like the concrete monolith ICC itself – might not seem like the best place to uncover some of the most inspiring ideas floating around today.

But it turned out to be the perfect place for the latest TEDx Berlin event, dubbed Future 3.0. And whether it was self-driving cars, teaching maths through Monopoly or generating energy through footsteps, it was an eyeopening experience.

Berlin startups were represented in the shape of Conrad Fritzsch, CEO of tape.tv, who gave an energetic talk about why people shouldn’t be afraid of big data.

But first up was Rene Schuster, CEO of Telefonica Germany, looking towards the future and what might happen in technology in the next few years – the standout stat from his talk being the fact that there are 6 billion mobile devices in the world, and only 4.2 billion toothbrushes…

Other highlights included Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit, explaining how gamification can change the way we educate people, both young and old. The aforementioned Monopoly example involved a teacher who is a ‘professional’ player of the famous board game who used it to help turn around a failing maths program in his school. There were plenty of other similar examples, including IBM’s Innov8 platform.

Nina Tandon, a TED senior fellow and researcher at Columbia University, gave a fascinating insight into how medicine is set to evolve in the coming years. Once the body was considered a single entity, and then processes were developed to repair and replace parts of it with outside materials, but now science is concentrating on enabling the body itself to do all the hard work.

In the second half of the event, Laurence Kemball-Cook demonstrated the Pavegen floor tile technology he developed which turns the footfalls of people walking on it into energy. It’s a genuinely astonishing technology, and a row of the tiles have been installed in a busy Tube station near London’s Olympic Park in recent weeks to take advantage of the mass of visitors currently passing through.

Before it was all over, there was time for Raul Rojas, a professor of artificial intelligence at the Freie Universität, to show off his AutoNOMOS car, which is able to drive through the streets of Berlin by itself perfectly safely using lasers and advanced GPS to stay aware of its surroundings, as well as some great music from Tanga Elektra and their loop station.

A lot of credit is due to Stephan Balzer and his team for bring a good dose of inspiration to IFA – and there won’t be long to wait till the next TEDx Berlin event, Crossing Borders, on November 23.