Since 2005, the TED conference has awarded $100,000 prizes each year to individuals with an idea to change the world. This year, the award was distributed in a different way: to an idea, the City 2.0.
The idea of a reimagined city was a dominant theme at this year's TED conference. Jennifer Pahlka, the founder of Code For America, spoke of how her organization puts software developers who might normally be at home in the startup world into the bureaucratic wilderness of city hall to try to develop innovative solutions to civic problems. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes spoke of how his city was able to win the Olympic games, expand the reach of its public transit system from covering 18 percent of citizens to 63 percent of citizens, bring healthcare and open spaces into the Favelas and build a modern control center to keep track of the large amounts of data about weather, service worker activity and traffic patterns.
The centerpiece, though, was TED's announcement of TheCity2.Org, a collaborative platform where citizens, leaders and corporations can connect to identify and support ideas for the future of their cities. The platform is supported with $250,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation, and a number of large corporations are throwing their weight behind it as well, including IBM and Autodesk.
"With the City 2.0, the TED Prize has embarked on the ultimate design challenge," said TED Curator Chris Anderson. "This is a global call for collaborative action on one of the biggest issues of our day. The new platform we're launching today is designed to empower citizens to connect with each other to help reshape their own cities. And it's designed to be open-tent. Numerous other organizations and individuals have been involved in this issue for years, and this platform allows them to share their successes, resources, and insights with the rest of the world."
TED also announced ten grants of $10,000, coming out of the $100,000 TED Prize, that will be awarded at TED Global in June 2012 to those local projects most likely to spur the creation of their City 2.0.
Check out the slideshow (below) for a look at our favorite TED talks.
At the July 2011 TEDGlobal conference, TED Fellow <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/lucianne_walkowicz.html" target="_hplink">Lucianne Walkowicz</a> discussed how the Kepler mission has helped us discover many new, far-away planets that might be habitable.
Berkeley Bionics' <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/eythor_bender.html" target="_hplink">Eythor Bender</a> at the TED2011 conference introduced exoskeleton designs that can carry heavy loads, allowing humans to hold more than they can naturally carry or even helping those without the use of their legs to walk at last year.
Julian Assange, editor-in-chief for whistleblower site Wikileaks, took the stage in July 2010 for a <a href="http://blog.ted.com/2010/07/26/surprise_speake/" target="_hplink">surprise Q&A</a> with TED's Chris Anderson to discuss the aims of the site, how it operates and what it has accomplished.
In February 2009, MIT's Pattie Maes shows off a wearable device called '<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html" target="_hplink">Sixth Sense</a>,' which lets the user interact with digital information that is overlaid on the physical world.
Heather Knight was joined onstage in 2010 by a <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/heather_knight_silicon_based_comedy.html" target="_hplink">robot standup comic</a> named Data. The funny 'bot cracked jokes for the audience and adjusted its performance based on feedback from participants.
At the TED2011 conference, <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/eli_pariser.html" target="_hplink">Eli Pariser</a>, an online organizer and author of "<a href="http://www.thefilterbubble.com/" target="_hplink">The Filter Bubble</a>," made a strong case against personalized web services, which often sacrifice important information or world-broadening ideas for specific preferences assigned to each of us by algorithms.
<a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/ralph_langner.html" target="_hplink">Ralph Langner</a>, a German security consultant who analyzed the complex <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/18/stuxnet-virus-iran_n_1286281.html" target="_hplink">Stuxnet computer virus</a> first discovered in 2010, more deeply explored how the virus works and what its purpose really is at last year's TED2011.
In the July 2011 TEDGlobal conference, biochemist and geneticist <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/cynthia_kenyon.html" target="_hplink">Cynthia Kenyon</a> explained the anti-aging effects of a mutation in a worm's DAF-2 gene and discussed what this might mean for human aging.
In 2007, Anthony Atala explained the process and purpose of <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_growing_organs_engineering_tissue.html" target="_hplink">growing human organs</a> in a lab and introduced TED-goes to the gizmos that make this fascinating innovation possible.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg asked "<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html" target="_hplink">why we have too few women leaders</a>" and presented three creative solutions in December 2010's TEDWomen conference.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas demoed <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/blaise_aguera_y_arcas_demos_photosynth.html" target="_hplink">Photosynth</a> in 2007, showing audiences how 2D photos can be used to create stunning 3D worlds that users can explore digitally.
In February 2006, Jeff Han <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen.html" target="_hplink">exhibited</a> his affordable high-res multi-touch display. The audience was blown away. The following year, Apple released its iPhone handsets, which featured a similarly equipped (though tinier) touch screen.
In 2008, Brian Cox spoke about his work on CERN's <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/brian_cox_on_cern_s_supercollider.html" target="_hplink">Large Hadron Collider</a>, which, he informed his audience, "is the largest scientific experiment ever attempted." During his presentation, Cox guided listeners through the project's challenges and goals.
In 2008, Johnny Lee introduced his audience to <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/johnny_lee_demos_wii_remote_hacks.html" target="_hplink">Wii Remote hacks</a> and showed how to turn the relatively inexpensive controller into a variety of teaching tools, such as a whiteboard, a touch screen and a 3D viewer.
In February 2010, Carter Emmart took his audience on a tour of the <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/carter_emmart_demos_a_3d_atlas_of_the_universe.html" target="_hplink">known universe in 3D</a>, a 12-year project that combined the efforts of scientists, artists and computer programmers.
Stephen Hawking's talk at TED2008 presented popular theories that attempt to answer some of humanity's most troublesome questions: "Where did we come from? How did the universe come into being? Are we alone in the universe? Is there alien life out there? What is the future of the human race?"
In 2007, tech journalist David Pogue performed a delightful "<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/david_pogue_on_the_music_wars.html" target="_hplink">TED medley</a>" about the history of music and television on the Internet.
At the July 2011 TEDGlobal conference, TED Fellow and artist <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/aparna_rao.html" target="_hplink">Aparna Rao</a> presented a handful of her art installations, which demonstrate the humorous side of technology.
In February 2011, <a href="http://www.ted.com/speakers/dennis_hong.html" target="_hplink">Dennis Hong</a> introduced a revolutionary idea that might allow blind people to drive. This can all be done <em>without</em> using self-driving car technology -- robotics, laser rangefinders, and GPS tools presented through a non-visual interface could allow blind drivers to perceive the road ahead and control the car all on their own.
In 2009, paralympic athlete Aimee Mullins trotted out her 12 pairs of <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html" target="_hplink">prosthetic legs</a> and demonstrated how their various qualities enhance her body.
Ok, so it's not a real TED talk, but this teaser for the upcoming film "<a href="http://www.prometheus-movie.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Prometheus</a>" portrays the fictional "Peter Weyland" giving a rousing TED presentation in the year 2023. Conceived by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof and directed by Luke Scot, Weyland speaks in the video about the creation of "cybernetic individuals who in a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us." The tenor of the talk is a bit more sinister than we're used to seeing at TED, but it sure makes us want to see this movie. <a href="http://blog.ted.com/TED2023/" target="_hplink">Visit the TED blog to explore more about this promo</a>.