Memorable Speakers: Pranav Mistry and the Magic of Technology


The list of the most popular TED Talks of all time contains well known speakers such as Daniel Pink and Tony Robbins, who have earned their way into the speakers hall of fame for their ability to engage and motivate. You might not be as familiar with one of the names, though: Pranav Mistry. You should get to know more about him, as he’s one of the more memorable speakers we’ve profiled on the We Love Live blog. He excels especially for his ability to share the wonder of technology.

Pranav Mistry first caught widespread attention for his research into sensor-based technology and the Internet of Things while he was a research assistant and PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab, which is a think tank for exploring emerging technology. He is currently a global vice president at Samsung Electronics.

Even in his age of visually interesting virtual and augmented reality, discussing technology onstage is not a slam dunk. It’s easy for speakers to get lost in the jargon of technology or so caught up in the details of how technology works that they can lose their audience quickly. But Pranav always remembers his audience. For instance, check out the following discussion of “Sixth Sense technology,” a form of gesture-based augmented reality:

Recorded at TEDIndia in 2009, his talk — one of the most popular ever — provides an example of how compelling he can be. In the video, he breaks down how we can apply our knowledge of objects and gestures to interact with the physical world. During his discussion, he employs storytelling to share how he hacked a mouse tracking device to create a home-made gesture-based interface. He also discusses how he visualized a pen that creates content in three dimensions and a Google Maps interface projected on to a table top.

In 2009, he was experimenting with augmented reality by making the physical and digital worlds interact — concepts that businesses are applying now. And yet, he challenges his own assumptions by admitting that his interest in computing was a bit out of sync with how everyday people think: we are more interested in information, not computing. In his talk, he shares how he advanced his research to create a way for you to use your hands to project information on to a wall with a pinch or a gesture.

His talk succeeds for many reasons, among them:

  • He sees the big picture. He does not get caught up in too many details. He focuses on demonstrating big concepts.
  • He relies on storytelling, such as his example of how he created his first rudimentary smart device.
  • He is visual. Even today, his visual demonstration of augmented reality resonates, such as his demo of playing a game of ping pong virtually on a subway train.
  • He relates his ideas to real life, such as applying augmented reality to improve everyday functions such as searching for information.

Perhaps his background helps explain why he shines as a speaker. On his website, he says that his exposure to fields such as design, technology, art and psychology has enriched his viewpoints. As he writes on his website, “I love to see technology from design perspective and vice versa.”

Pranav Mistry’s enthusiasm for technology, and his ability to demonstrate its human applications, make him a compelling speaker. Who are some of your favorite speakers?

Image source: TED YouTube channel (

We Love Live®. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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