TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

TED is the Technology, Entertainment and Design set of conferences that covers various topics and consists of many addresses by powerful, and interesting, persons including the likes of Bill Clinton, Larry Page, Will Wright and Jamie Oliver.

TED was founded as a one-off event in 1984 and then as an annual event from 1990 – but costly and invitation-only. Some sixteen years later, it became an online service with talks available for free via a dedicated website, iTunes and, in late 2009, an iOS application.┬áIn the talks themselves, speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in engaging ways.

TED‘s dedicated iPad application joined the iPhone app to deliver the same videos available through TED.com on a familiar media consumption platform, the iPad. Unlike a web application or something generic like the YouTube app, the official TED application offers an experience that’s tailored to its content and the conference itself.

Browsing and Discovering

TED‘s main view is a large grid of featured talks, each with their own thumbnail and title offering a little insight into what you could be watching. All together, there are 60 talks featured across five pages.

If you don’t feel like just looking through the various pages, there’s also the ability to sort the talks and filter them by tags. If you feel like watching something a little more random, a quick tap on the “Inspire Me” button leads you to a question that’s something like “You want to see something… Courageous/Funny/Persuasive/etc.” Following that, TED will ask you how much time you have (in order to setup a playlist and then lead you onto watching something.

The “Inspire Me” button is a great way to watch something inspiring that you never would have ventured onto yourself.

At the bottom, one can also view talks by theme or by tags. Themes group various talks that cover similar matters like nature, architecture and food into small series that you can peruse at will. Similarly, tags are the various topics that talks cover and can be navigated between to view groups of talks on similar themes.

Finally, the “Saved Talks” section allows you to playback talks that have been saved for offline viewing – allowing you to watch without an internet connection!

The featured talks on TED's iPad homepage

Inspire Me

The “Inspire Me” feature, as we’ve previously mentioned, is an innovative way of discovering talks. The feature allows you to create a custom playlist based on the type of video (types like funny, informative and inspiring).

Plus, you can select a specific length to match the time you’ve got spare. The various talks then play in succession to each other, with further details about each one available in a lightbox accessed by the “i” button in the lower-right corner.

I really appreciate this feature and its ability to unveil interesting and informative talks that I would never had personally searched for. It’s kind of like Apple’s Genius feature.

"Inspire Me" on the TED iPad app

Viewing and Watching

Once you’ve selected a talk to watch, the video is loaded up in the standard iOS QuickTime player allowing you to go fullscreen and use DisplayOut to watch a talk on an external display. Whilst I can’t confirm it myself, there’s no reason for AirPlay to not work since TED uses the regular iOS player.

Alongside the video are key points both about the talk and about the speaker. The former offers a preview into the contents of the talk whilst the latter offer some insight into the speaker’s biography.

Bill Gates' speech on TED

TED will also recommend the next talk for you to watch as well as presenting related themes and tags to help you find new content to watch. If you’ve opened the video from a search result, there are also controls to easily skip forwards or backwards between them.

If you’re a social media junkie, the standard sharing options are there too, alongside the aforementioned saving options to replay video without an internet connection.

Final Thoughts

TED, as a conference and as a service, is a great one. The ideas expressed can be motivational, inspiring, and give you a new perspective on your own life. Each video is less than 18 minutes – they tend towards being beautifully concise.

The iPad application not only allows you to watch the videos you want, but also discover videos on entirely new topics you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

I appreciate TED’s decision to not use a custom player in this app so it works with both DisplayOut and AirPlay, allowing you to hook the videos up to your HDTV and appreciate them in a larger format. Additionally, I love the “Saved Talks” feature that enables you to watch videos without an internet connection in scenarios like a long car journey, or during your daily commute. There’s nothing better than getting into work with a new perspective and a motivated attitude!

TED‘s videos are available through their website, and also as iTunes downloads, but I still appreciate the all-in-one attitude of the app. Be sure to share your experiences in the comments.


TED's iPad application is a great way to be inspired by the brilliant content from the site. Features like Saved Talks and Inspire Me show how close the iPad is to becoming the perfect personal computer.