Professor Falko Kuester

Engineering a Future for the Past

Imagine the impact on cultural identity if the artifacts that embody the history of a country are damaged or destroyed. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines heritage as  “…our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.”  Whether in the public domain or in private hands, cultural heritage sits at the nexus of science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM), as well as commerce, diplomacy and religion. Recent events demonstrate the fragile state of our world cultural heritage in the face of natural and man-made disasters.  The ravages of time, pollution, theft,  mismanagement and the unintended consequences of existing preservation efforts  have all taken a major toll on monuments, structures, sculptures, paintings, archaeological and other artifacts that constitute cultural heritage. Engineering offers the best hope for improving stewardship of these assets and reversing decades or even centuries of damage while creating a future for the past.  Using digital surrogates of world cultural heritage sites and artifacts researchers, stakeholders and the public alike can experience and study artifacts untouched by time and distance. 

Dr David Vaughan

Bringing Coral Reefs Back to Life

Coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor but support about 25 percent of marine life. Unfortunately, reefs around the world are in decline due to climate change, ocean acidification,  disease, overfishing and other stressors, Dr Vaughan will cover new technologies that he has developed for Coral Reef Restoration in order to bring back these critical pieces of the marine ecosystem. Large scale production of massive corals can be achieved  through "micro-fragmentation" -- the fusion of small fragments back together to form a new large colony, as well as the reskinning of like strains onto dead coral skeletons to bring old colonies back to life.  Restoring reefs alone is not enough, They must be able to withstand new environmental conditions in a rapidly changing world. Genetic diversity can be increased using sexual reproduction under controlled conditions followed by the testing and selection of resilient strains.  Using a combination of these techniques we can restore reefs to their former health.

Joel Newton

Story Telling in a New Medium

The rise of virtual reality devices has prompted leaders in almost every industry to imagine and embrace the possibilities about to be unlocked in their respective fields. Storytelling has occupied a unique and confusing corner of this conversation, with extremely divergent trending opinions. From the pessimism of cinema masters to the exuberance of early adopters, Joel Newton explores this issue by strongly differentiating the building blocks of story from the traditional film language techniques invented to serve storytellers. He'll then take a tour through some of the most ambitious VR storytelling projects happening in Hollywood today and examine a few examples of the new toolset being invented to serve story in VR.

Dr Susan Erdman

Slim, Shiny, Sexy: Microbes and Your Health

There are around ten times as many bacterial cells in your body as human ones. The symbiosis begins at birth with the mother donating bacterial colonies to the infant and continues through life as we ingest food from our environment.  Little has been known about the effect of these passengers on our health until recent research has started to shed a light on the complex and mutually beneficial interactions. Dr Erdman leads us through the surprising findings she has uncovered from studying probiotic eating mice. Radiant skin, luxuriant hair, a slender waistline and a got-it-goin’-on swagger are just the beginning. It turns out that beneficial bacteria can also boost brains with the love hormone oxytocin, an important part of what gives life meaning.

Stephen Bliss

The Power of the Palimpsest

For the past decade, Stephen Bliss has been documenting what he considers to be ‘accidental art’ that he has found around the streets of New York City. He photographs small sections of walls layered with weathered and torn advertising posters, veneers of images, sprayed graffiti tags, stickers, paste ups, glyphs, symbols, esoteric ramblings, etched messages and scrawled protests inscribed onto the walls from different eras. The street becomes a gallery showing the evolution of a city, retelling its history through the fabric of its walls. He’ll be showing examples of these intriguing and strange communications between people who feel compelled to leave behind traces of themselves, and however ephemeral these scrawls and marks of past lives, the residues tell a continuous story, forming a palimpsest of time.

Debbie Millman

A Cautionary Tale of Hopes, Dreams and Rejection

A Cautionary Tale of Hopes, Dreams and Rejection is a funny and heartbreaking tale of making it (or not) in New York City. The presentation begins in early 2003 when a good friend sent Debbie Millman an email containing a link that took her to a “blog,” the first-ever online forum about graphic design and branding. Suddenly she found herself reading an article that disparaged her entire career. This experience—in tandem with a number of historical rejections and setbacks—sent Millman into deep despair, and she seriously considered leaving the design profession altogether. In a series of poignant, revealing and sometimes hysterical anecdotes, Debbie will share her journey out of heartbreak and offer insight on how the worst moment in your life can actually become the most profound and life affirming.

Irwin Trott


Nigel Jacob

Rethinking Smart Cities

Much has been made of the fact that in 2008, more than 50% of humanity were living in cities. As such, cities were and are seen as the place where many of the big challenges of our species (poverty, education, public healthy, etc) can be solved. Over the last several years, large numbers Smart City projects have been launched to take advantage of this fact. Interestingly, in many (most?) cases, the results of these projects have not yielded the expected results. In Boston, we've been developing an experimental, human-centered approach to urban innovation that has many lessons for the Smart City world. 

Rosie Rios

Visibility Reinvented