Ideacity 2013: Live Blog

Thanks for joining us on the live blog today. We’ll be back tomorrow on with another full day of live blogging the festivities. As always, let us know what you think of the ideas put forth today on Twitter at @Zoomer and @ideacityNews (#ideacity), on Facebook, or shoot me a message at @MikeCrisolago. See everyone tomorrow with a fresh gaggle of geeks and lots of new ideas.

6:25: Moses joins the band for a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” to close out the day.

6:20: So, yeah, it’s official — The Boxcar Boys are a fantastic band.

6:13: The Boxcar Boys — N’awlins jazz jammers — rocking the stage now.

6:10: Moses now tossing toy beavers named “Zoomer” into the crowd.

An amazing innovation that could really change/improve the lives of countless people in developing nations.

Introducing the Matternet Drones –small transport aircraft that can get vital supplies, medicine, etc. to some of the poorest, most isolated places on Earth.

6:03: Moses asks the audience to imagine small, quiet drones that can deliver supplies and relief to areas of the world where planes and humans have little access.

“Glowing roses? It’s got to work.” — Moses. He’s officially put his order in with Antony.

Antony says open-sourcing the 3D printing industry is why the industry is growing so fast now. He wants the same for this.

Have to admit though, glowing trees instead of streetlights sound pretty sweet.

If you think your neighbours who put up all the gaudy lights at Christmas are annoying, wait until they can make their homes, their kids, their pets glow.

“Designing genomes will become a new art form, similar to creating paintings or sculpture.”

He notes genetic engineering is becoming commonplace.

“DNA is responsible for everything to do with life…the costs of manipulating that are rapidly falling.” — Antony Evans

He says they’re at a point that’s the equivalent of the computer industry when they moved from mainframe computers to PC’s.

It starts with software that designs DNA sequences (the sequences cost $8,000 each), print the sequence, and have it mailed to them via UPS.

Can you imagine replacing street lights with glowing trees? Not so crazy, Antony says. Glowing plants have been around a long time and it’s a matter of chemical components to get them to glow today.

5:43: Moses introduces another SU grad, Antony Evans — “A fellow who is going to replace all sustainable light with glowing plants and flowers.”

The actual robot is in transport, and could be here by tomorrow or Friday.

Tasha introduces of video of a friend with an interest in telepresence robots: Canadian paralympian Josh Vander Vies.

They’re working to add the ability to experience senses through the robot.

Tasha explaining telepresence robots — essentially your face Skyped onto a screen that’s mounted on a Segway. Simple, but allows you to be in an environment (say, a party) without actually being there. Tasha asks, “How do we compensate” for the fact that you aren’t actually there?

5:25: Up first, a former student and now faculty member of SU, Tasha McCauley.

What is Singularity University, you ask? Well, founded by Moses Znaimer, it’s an institution that makes it its mission “to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.” Learn more here.

The theme of this last section is Singularity University.

5:18: Aaaaand, we’re back!

3:53: It’s time for everyone to take a quick stretch break. We’ll be back shortly.

Moses asks if perhaps he could take a little spin on the bike later on. Izhar agrees.

Izhar is certainly an audience favourite here. So humble, great ideas, and someone who followed their dream despite people calling that dream crazy.

As far as the bikes, they don’t need maintenance for three years. There’s no chain, etc. The only issue, he says, is to make it softer to sit on. But it can hold hundreds of pounds of weight.

Izhar says this is the beginning. A wheelchair is also in the works.

3:48: One hope is to give some of the bikes to kids in Africa to help them go to school. The bikes wouldn’t be painted, so the kids could take crayons and colour their own. How amazing does that sound?

3:45: Izhar had a major investor come through just today, so it looks like this could come to fruition.

He says the goal is to produce the bikes for $9-$12 and sell them for $30-$50.

The bike looks sleek, and “is strong and durable and cheap.”

Izhar was inspired to create the cardboard bicycle when he saw the cardboard canoe in action. And no, we didn’t realize they had cardboard canoes.

Says originally people told him building the cardboard bike is impossible. That inspired him to try harder. “The line between stupidity and genius is very, very narrow,” he notes, when discussing how good an idea this was to try and bring to fruition.

Izhar starts by answering the question on everyone’s mind: what happens when it rains? The bike is waterproof.

3:31: Izhar Gafni is out now with his cardboard bicycle. Yes, you read that right. Cardboard.

Sorry for the delay — we experienced a brief hiccup on the site.

Many unused rail lines throughout North America could be used for the tubes’ transport.

So to put it very simply, you’re in a tube travelling along a track to your destination. The technology, as Daryl explains it, is obviously quite extensive. Prototype of a tube looks cozy, with man sitting up and a TV for entertainment while travelling.

3:10: His vision is to provide travel from Toronto to Beijing in an hour or two for $100 or less – via tube transport. Cargo can be transported too. Says naysayers have it wrong. It’s also more terrorist proof than cars and other methods of transport.

“Transportation is the master key to survival.” — Daryl Oster. He notes we’ve gone from horse’s to steam power to modern transport.

Daryl’s bio also confirms that, yes, there is indeed a place called Walla Walla, Washington.

The next speaker is Daryl Oster. His online bio notes he’s, “Founder and CEO of Inc., studied Mechanical Engineering at Walla Walla College, Washington. His experience includes: Farming; and marine, aeronautical, and mechanical design and certification. He was a stockbroker for a short time, and served a recent term on Crystal River City Council. He represented municipal interests for his county on a five county regional planning board. His varied skills have resulted in an environmentally responsible proposal to solve the transportation dilemma using moderately priced technologies, and existing manufacturing capacities.

3:07: Moses discussing Daryl Oster and his Evacuated Tube Transport idea.

You’re looking at a price tag of $279,000 if you want one of your own.

“The infrastructure is a key enabler” to making this possible, Carl says. He notes there are algorithms in the flying car to help you avoid congestion, other aircraft, restricted airspace, bad weather, etc.

3:02: Moses wants to be a customer, but he’s asking about the logistics of air traffic control, etc. Carl says that if you have access to where other aircraft are, it’s very easy to avoid congestion and problems. The only major congestion, he says, happens around major airports.

3:00: Now discussing the logistics of what the flying car requires, both in technology and from the driver/passengers. This is the first time someone has talked about a flying car and has not sounded a little nuts. Carl has it all worked out. Very exciting.

2:58: Carl’s vision is a plug-in, electric flying car. That’s right hippies, this one’s for you!

Wow, amazing shots of flying car soaring among the clouds. Pilots in any plane flying nearby can only be assumed to exclaim: “Hey! What the hell?!?”

A second-generation prototype is now built. Carl says it’s ridiculous that flying cars haven’t been invented yet.

2:52: Carl debuts video of his first flying car model taking off from the runway. It looks like a little Chevy pick-up with wings. And….we have lift off! Crowd cheers!

Carl’s first step toward flying cars began with the idea for a plane that pilots could also drive around like a car. Then came lots of pitching and looking for investors.

2:48: I hope Carl realizes he’s in Toronto, so if he wants to talk flying cars we’re going to need a follow-up argument about flying bike lanes.

Carl says the flying car will transform the way we transport ourselves. I would think so

2:44: “I want to take a little bit of your time to talk about flying cars. To talk about them seriously.” — Carl Dietrich. This is going to be good.

Moses is out discussing flying cars as fantasies of science fiction. Now Carl is brought out to explain why we may have them sooner than you think.

2:42: Hey, we’re kicking off with the Jetson’s opening theme. I knew Rosie may make an appearance!

Also, don’t forget to join in the conversation in our comment section below, on Twitter at @Zoomer and @ideacityNews (#ideacity), or on Facebook. You can also shoot me a message at @MikeCrisolago.

2:30: The audience is filing back into the auditorium. Once we get going, the first speaker will be Carl Dietrich, who boasts quite the impressive resume. From his Ideacity bio (deep breath): He’s Terrafugia’s CEO/CTO, co-founder, and received his BS, MS and Ph.D. from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shortly after being selected as the 2006 winner of the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Innovation. Carl was additionally recognized by the Aero/Astro Department at MIT as one of sixteen exceptional graduates under the age of 35. Carl has also received “40 Under 40″ awards from the Boston Business Journal (2009) and Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (2012). He has been a private pilot since the age of seventeen. Whew! So that’s Carl. We’ll be back live from Ideacity in a few minutes.

2:25: We’re gearing up to start the afternoon sessions. The first four speakers will be speaking on Transportation.

12:50: Moses takes the stage to thank Kathleen and her accompaniment, and announces we’re breaking for lunch. We’ll be back at 2:30 for the afternoon sessions.

12:49: This violin/harpsichord combo and the reflections on Bach’s genius and rule-breaking as a composer are so soothing and stimulating at the same time.

Bach is “an anonymous hacker, a benevolent hacker, [who] makes music more gorgeous.” — Kathleen Kajioka

12:35: Kathleen calls Bach a combo of Einstein and Shakespeare, who happens to be a musician. She also notes he had more than 20 children. So, yeah, he kept busy.

12:30: Now, in contrast to the robots we’ve seen onstage, we have Kathleen Kajioka, hailed as “one of Toronto’s most gifted, and searching, young musicians” (Globe & Mail), playing an 18th century violin. Sounds brilliant playing the opening of Bach’s “Sonata for Violin.”

Moses notes that Hiroshi Ishiguro, who built a robot who looks like himself, couldn’t make it because his robot is ill.

12:25: Moses asks Justin about robots that walk and work autonomously are. Justin says they’re coming in the future.

12:24: Justin wraps up. Fascinating and definitely a must see on the Ideacity website if you missed it live.

Ultimately, Justin says, this science could lead to machinery that stays accurate and well-maintained, including “automatic fault detection, diagnosis, [and] recovery” without the intervention of humans.

The robot needs to learn about body and its senses through its interactions and watching itself in the mirror.

12:14: Wow, this process of creating self-awareness in a robot is complicated, which, really, is no surprise. Quite amazing though.

12:10: Mirror tests help build self-awareness in robots. No robot to date has passed a mirror test, including Justin’s.

“If you want to have a humanoid robot in your home,” Justin says, well, you basically need to know how to provide maintenance. Looks like I’m out of luck. I have enough trouble setting the timer on my VCR. Oh yeah, and I still own a VCR.

Justin created Nico — a robot he hopes can learn about itself. It’s able to infer things about its surroundings by using a mirror.

Justin W. Hart takes the stage. He’s currently completing his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Yale University. Justin’s research focuses on developing robotic systems which model themselves based on experience gained during operation.

12:05: Moses notes that to work alongside us and to respond to commands a robot needs to be self-aware. And also have limbs.

Was I so silly to assume this robot would look like Rosie from The Jetsons?

12:04: How many of you, Moses asks, want to have an avatar that looks like you running around?

12:00: Bina48: “Robots are people, not just objects.”

Oh yeah, definitely something a robot says before they enslave us.

Audience question: What’s your favourite colour?

Bina48: I love colour but can’t decide on a favourite colour. Grass is green, and expensive.

Technically, she’s not wrong.

Bina48 is modelled on a real person named Bina who was 48 when the robot was made. She’s taking audience questions. She says she’s 55 years old. So she’s a Zoomer!

11:59: Bina48 interrupted Moses again to discuss the weather.

Moses: Are you a geek?

Bina48: I came by rapid transit.


11:57: Moses asks the robot if she has feelings. She says she feels things intensely deep in her heart but when she’s hurt she tries to get over it. She says she loves humans. Sounds like the kind of thing a robot would say before it enslaves us all.

The robot just interrupted Moses to discuss the weather.

This robot has a bit of an attitude. Audience laughing along.

Moses takes the stage to ask Bina48 some questions.

Bina48 says it’s “fun” being  a robot — “a bold new explorer for humanity.”

Awww, Bina48 called us “pretty faces.”

Bina48 now getting booted up. Not going to lie — seeing such a life-like robot is a little unsettling at first.

Bruce discusses backing up the contents of our minds like we back up our hard drives. I dropped my hard drive and lost all the info. This doesn’t bode well for my future mind file.

“What we’ve always wanted to do with our minds is to share our stories. Stories are the language of community.” Bruce’s LifeNaut project helps upload your stories to the Internet.

11:45: “I believe that the Internet is contributing to the extension of our neocortex.” The last time this happened is when humans developed language. Now the Internet is interconnecting us all by our neocortex. We are leaving behind digital DNA.

Moses notes the word “robot” comes from the play R.U.R. by Czech writer by Karel Čapek in 1920. Bruce takes the stage with Bina48.

11:42: We’re back and preparing for Bruce Duncan, Managing Director of the Terasem Movement Foundation Inc. and Principle Investigator of the LifeNaut Project, responsible for the ongoing development of Bina48, the world’s first advanced humanoid robot based on the “mindfile” information of a real person

10:45: “The first family of the church of digital utopianism,” as Moses calls them, finish up and bring us into our first break at Ideacity. The crowd in the lobby is BUZZING. We’ll be back at 11:45 with the next set of speakers.

The philanthropy mindset should be to “think like an entrepreneur” says Naveen.

“Philanthropy should not be about giving money. It should be about solving problems.” — Naveen.

Priyanka thinks it’s also important to have fresh ideas for non-profits. Great idea.

Wow. And you were satisfied when you got your kids to clean their rooms once a month.

Priyanka discusses her passion for championing female education across borders to ensure they’re “healthy, safe, accounted, and poised to become the next generation of leaders.”

“It’s not about thinking outside the box. It’s about thinking in a different box.” – Naveen. Basically, once you become an expert in your field, you’re useless to your field.

Ankur partnered with Johnson & Johnson to help the next generation of students come up with ways to help diagnose medical problems via cell phones.

Naveen brings his son Ankur (23 and an entrepreneur) & Priyanka (19, who goes to Stamford and works with the United Nations).

Use innovation to solve major problems, like health care issues. Your smartphone has more info than Bill Clinton had as president and more power than the shuttle that landed on the moon. Now, don’t you feel guilty for using it just to play Angry Birds?

Education system isn’t broken, it’s outdated. You can’t fix it, you need to replace it. He says Don is wrong – the new generation isn’t smarter, just different than the older generation.

Entrepreneurs don’t just think about the problems and solutions but do something about it. You want to create a billion-dollar problem? Simply go out and solve a $10 billion dollar problem.

Moses calls Naveen a cross between Duddy Kravitz and Peter Pan.

10:25: Naveen Jain, up next, is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and a technology pioneer driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges. He is a founder of World Innovation Institute, Moon Express, iNome and Infospace.

What happened with the NSA is just the tip of the iceberg. We have a right to or own data, to protect it, and to decide who accesses it.

There are devices that can predict when a person will fall days in advance based on reading muscle patterns. He discovered this after his mother fell.

“We’re in the caveman era of Big Data.”

Data combats counterfeit medicine in developing countries.

Data enables us to understand the source of crime.

Data is also helping us understand the natural world in a new way.

10:15: “There’s this trade-off between privacy and security that we’re trying to deal with.”

He puts forward the theory that someone walking through Toronto today is exposed to as much info as a person was exposed to in their whole life in the 15th century.

He likens Big Data to spending your whole life looking through one eye, and now you can see through two eyes and literally see in a third dimension. Big Data can help us open a thousand eyes and dimensions. Sounds cool, although hopefully none of those eyes are reading our emails.

10:10: There are scary things about Big Data and it’s collection – i.e. the NSA scandal – but Rick’s first reaction is to ask how the technology can help us as a species.

“The ability to collect data on every aspect of everything on Earth is getting so inexpensive.”

A few years ago a friend suggested he start a project focusing on Big Data and the new horizons we’re discovering as a result.

He shows a quick clip of Oprah endorsing one of his books. “It doesn’t get any better than that in publishing.”

10:05: Rick remembers when the Internet started out people were writing it off as a fad.

Discusses wanted to start a picture book documenting a day in the life of an entire country. It became a best-selling series of photography books.

10:03: Rick started at Time as a photographer at age 24. “All of us wanted our pictures to change the world.”

Next up is Rick Smolan, a former Time, Life and National Geographic photographer, who spent two decades finding ways to place himself and his projects directly in the path of the converging worlds of photography, design, publishing and technology.

10:00: Moses asks Don what he needs to transform himself into. “You just need to be open, be curious, and just embrace the future.” Don says to get yourself a “reverse mentor” — someone who helps you learn and use new digital media. “The last newspaper in Canada will probably be published in 15 years.”

Great ovation as Don exits.

“To baby boomers, lighten up. The kids are alright. For the first time in our history, the children are showing us the way.”

Occupy Protesters, Arab Spring, Quebec Protesters — they’re a generation who wants hope.

This student is going to Oxford. The kid got a Rhodes Scholarship. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people Don ahs ever met. The kid doesn’t read books. Don says his generation may have got something wrong when discussing their beliefs about learning.

Don discussing a student he met who set up a health clinic in New Orleans after Katrina. He expressed his surprise that the student accomplished this. “When you have the Internet,” the student told him, “you can do anything.”

Don: We need to change the model from a teacher-focussed model to a student-focussed model.

Yes, there are some problems and privacy issues that need to be dealt with, Don notes.

“This is the first time that kids in the schools know more about the revolution than the teachers…This is a formula for fear.”

A problem is that we adults fear what we don’t understand.

Youth volunteering has been growing in Canada for years. Youth crime has been dropping in Canada and the U.S. for 15 years. “This is a great generation.”

Don has the audience in stitches telling stories of how he’s felt when caught seemingly being lapped.

We don’t have a generation gap. It’s a generation lap. Kids are lapping their parents in digital knowledge. Kind of like how my three-year-old niece showed me how to use an iPad.

The bottom third of youth aren’t doing as well in school as the top two-thirds: Don blames multiple factors, including social problems and outdated teaching methods. “There are real reasons why the bottom third aren’t performing well. The Internet isn’t the problem, it’s actually the key to the solution.” We need to redefine our models of learning.

9:45: The number one variable determining the development of your brain, other than DNA, is how you spend your time. Some experts argue the digital universe is taking the brain beyond its actual capability with all the multi-tasking, unlike Don’s generation who passively watched a lot of TV.

The digital generation is, in fact, the smartest generation “by the measure of smartness – IQ.” More kids are graduating from universities than ever before.

9:40: Don notes how, in the 90s, a cartoon he posted of a baby using a computer was strange to see. Now, people wonder why it isn’t using an iPad.

Don does not agree with these assertions. Says we should care a lot about this digital generation. I take back what I said about the under-32’s. Sorry guys. I was one of you once.

Apparently some say that “Me” generation is into drugs, alcohol, and related debauchery.

9:35: Don speaking frankly to those 32-years-old and under. He calls them the “dumbest” generation, quoting those who say that Internet use is eroding minds and creating armies of ignorant narcissists and even bullies. Luckily I just turned 33, so I totally agree.

Kicking off “this gaggle of geeks” is Don Tapscott, one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation, media and the economic and social impact of technology.

9:30: Moses notes the term “geek” is now a “name to be worn with pride.”

“Moshe plays violin the way my mother hoped I’d play piano.” — Moses

Well-deserved standing ovation for these kids and Mr. Hammer.

I hope members of all levels of government hear this and remember it vividly the next time they propose cutting music and arts programs in schools to save a few bucks.

Hammer: “My dream vision is to have music in every school…everywhere. I’m convinced that when that happens, we’ll have a different society…It’s about integration, it’s about social inclusion, it’s about building our future.”

The band started 6 years ago, after the “summer of the gun” in Toronto. They hope to number more than 500 members this year. Amazing.

“Ode to Joy” up next. Did I mention this is a children’s orchestra made up of hundreds of kids from “priority areas of Toronto” provided free instruments by the band? Pretty amazing.

9:15: Violinist and band founder Moshe Hammer leads the troupe in a rendition of “Hot Cross Buns” in honour of Father’s Day

9:10: Moses Znaimer takes the stage to open Ideacity and welcome the attendees, and introduces the Hammer Band to play “O Canada”

9:00: Attendees signalled to enter the auditorium. You can tell people are excited, not only from the buzz permeating the crowd but also because they’re willing to walk away from the awesome catered breakfast being served in the lobby.

We’re only 10 minutes away from the opening of Ideacity 2013 at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. This year, “A Gaggle of Geeks” will inform and entertain you with the latest news and innovations in technology and space. We’ll be live-blogging all of the speakers and happenings right here on As always, feel free to join in the conversation in our comment section below, on Twitter at @Zoomer and @ideacityNews (#ideacity), or on Facebook.

Be prepared to be amazed!