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Brief Published: 21 Oct 2014

Radical Ideas at Wired 2014

David Rowan, Wired UK Editor, and Will.i.am at Wired 2014

The fourth annual Wired technology and creativity conference took place last week at Tobacco Dock in east London. As ever, the line-up was packed with innovative speakers from the worlds of science, art, media and academia – and also included American music producer and entrepreneur Will.i.am, showcasing his new Puls “smart cuff”, which aims to take wearable tech mainstream.

Highlights of the two-day event included quadriplegic British roboticist Stuart Turner flying a drone around the conference hall via the internet from his home in Manchester; an ear-shredding display of vocal prowess from beatboxer Shlomo; and US hacker extraordinaire Nico Sell revealing just how unsafe it is to be on any social networking sites (“boycott Facebook,” she instructed us).

Stylus grabbed some time with one of the main speakers, Skylar Tibbits, artist and computational architect at the MIT Department of Architecture in the US, to hear his thoughts on innovation and world-changing ideas. “[At MIT] we don't sit around every day saying: how do we solve the world’s biggest problems?” he commented. “In some ways, we’re a cross between a scientist and an artist. We look at fascinating things that we think have not been touched, and we’re confident that many amazing ideas will come out of it.”

Tibbits is passionate about the power of design and engineering research to inspire great innovation. “If you look at the history of the transistor, for example – those researchers were not focused on how this transistor was going to solve a need or change the world, but it did. And it’s because of the people that were inquisitive about this fundamental, radical shift that it changed society forever. I think we need to have faith that those radical ideas will change things.”

For more on Wired14, look out for our event report later this week.