Hundreds of Bristol’s brightest minds, from students to entrepreneurs, local residents and the idea-curious descended on the Colston Hall in Bristol this week – along with thousands of remote viewers from around the world – to hear some of the most thought-provoking and disruptive speakers from the South West and beyond.

In its fifth year, the TEDxBristol festival, an independent take on TED’s global concept of ‘ideas worth sharing’  – showcased 20 speakers over two days, breaking down barriers in tech, science and society, and challenging views on race, inequality, history, family and health.

You can check out just how broad the ideas that were shared in the video below:


Tied only to the broadest theme ‘Dare to Disrupt’, the audience was treated to everything from heartfelt stories of personal triumph to thought-provoking reflections on the actions of our society and challenges in the way we see the future.

Robots of the future

One such speaker, Charles Radclyffe (pictured left), set the tone on the morning of the first day with a talk on the future of artificial intelligence. Challenging the common fear that robots will ‘steal all our jobs’, he began his talk with the opening line: “The robot revolution is our chance to design the future we want”.

He discussed the idea that money and human tradition trap us in a stalemate, and that allowing the automation of essential services, such as food production, would make them free – thus freeing up people to explore what really makes them ‘tick’. He suggested: “When you take people out of the process, new possibilities emerge” and asked the audience to think about what they might do if they didn’t have to rely on their job to define their life’s purpose.

“I’m fascinated by the power of motion to trigger emotion”


Also speaking on the theme of robotics was David McGoran (pictured in main image above), the co-founder and artistic director of Bristol-based Rusty Squid, a robotics research studio that combines theatre and artistry with design and technology.

In his talk entitled ‘How Avant-Garde Robots Will Help Us Survive This Century’, David shared how he came to start challenging the traditional view of robotics as disembodied and logical. He told the audience: “I’m fascinated by the power of motion to trigger emotion. The physical nature of robotics offers an incredible way of engaging with people.”

He shared some of his wacky and wonderful projects, including robotic hearts that, when held, beat in time with the heart of its users and the ‘Book Hive’ exhibition he worked on at the Bristol Central Library in which walls of animatronic books opened and closed in response to the movement of its viewers.

By showing how things could be done differently, David opened up the audience’s mind to a world where the artist, designer and engineering worlds could truly come together to create the real technology of the future – and potentially the birth of a new creative industry in itself.

Showcasing innovation

As well as inspiring speakers, attendees were given plenty of opportunities to get involved in some of the disruptive projects and businesses in the South West, including TEDxBristol’s live Mind Mapping, workshops on aiming to demystify artificial intelligence and of course the plentiful demos in the ‘Innovation Zone’.

“We’ve had a great time… talking about what possibilities are out there for women who want to work in tech”


One company showing off in the Innovation Zone was Zubr – a small Bristol-based virtual and augmented reality design studio. It’s packing a punch working with companies such as global cloud-solutions experts Oracle to design a 3D view of Bloodhound SSC – the lean speed machine that’s set to top the world land speed record. Zubr is also building smart augmented reality (AR) binoculars that takes its users to Cardiff Bay to travel back in time, forward to the present and whizzing into the future – bringing both history and the potential for development in our landscapes to life.

VR Engineering: TechSPARK’s roving reporter Alice fixes an
army tank in a virtual reality demo from Zubr


Also showing off its latest tech was WizDish VR – the ‘computer mouse’ that lets you walk around virtual worlds and Nymbl, a Bristol-based studio specialising in 3D animation, motion graphics and VR.

Finally, daring to disrupt from an exhibition stand was Women’s Tech Hub (WTH) Bristol, a not-for-profit organisation that’s tackling the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (pictured left), who were keen to interact and inspire local women and businesses to support this important movement.

Constance Fleuriot co-founder of  WTH Bristol says: “We’ve had a great time meeting lots of new people and talking about what possibilities are out there for women who want to work in tech. There’s been a great response from individuals and companies who want to engage with us. Not just because we gave them sweets and sold them our wtf t-shirts.”

With some exciting new projects, events and schemes up their sleeves, the WTH message is spreading fast (and with such great t-shirts, it’s no surprise).

If you want to find out more about the other speakers and exhibitors at TEDxBristol, check out the TEDxBristol website or follow them on Twitter here: @TEDxBristol.

To stay tuned to some of the exciting upcoming news and stories from the tech companies and people featured in this article, keep an eye on the TechSPARK site, sign up to the TechSPARK newsletter or follow us on Twitter here: @TechSPARKuk.