TEDxWinnipeg is only days away and will bring together a collection of Winnipeg’s creatives and innovators to discuss topics and ideas centred around this year’s theme of “challenge.”
The event, which takes place on June 13 at the RBC Convention Centre, will feature prominent thinkers in a variety of areas including conflict resolution and the pursuit of the good life. For those not in attendance at this hot-ticket event, a livestream is also available so that everyone has the opportunity to watch the talks.
Three of the 13 speakers selected to speak at this year’s event will focus on innovative technologies such as the growth of cryptocurrency in Canada, developing your own virtual reality avatar, and new techniques for vertical farming in Manitoba.
Young leader eyes Manitoba as a Bitcoin mining hotspot
Gord Parke is a software and hardware entrepreneur who was named one of “Canada’s future leaders under 25” by Maclean’s magazine in 2013 after designing and selling an app called SkyPro, which analyzes a golfer’s swing and offers video playback in order to enhance their technique.
Parke explains that it was also around this time that he became interested in Bitcoin, the highly publicized cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. “Many people have heard of Bitcoin these days, but most don’t know much about the underlying blockchain, how it works and what it can be used for besides digital currencies,” Parke states.
Cryptocurrencies operate using blockchain technology, which is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers. Any change or alteration must be approved by the community of networks, ostensibly leading to a more transparent and traceable financial model. Without the requirement of a central bank or single administrator, this digital currency is changing how many developers, tech enthusiasts and investors are thinking about our global banking system.
Since the blockchain can seem overwhelming to people who may not be very familiar with the technology, Parke plans to discuss three important topics during his talk:
- A brief history of the blockchain, focusing on the problem it was invented to solve
- A general background about how it works and why Manitoba is a good place to mine
- Potential applications of the blockchain (outside of cryptocurrencies) along with both positive and negative implications
For Parke, he believes that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology “are one of the most impactful ideas of our century” and he’s looking forward to sharing those ideas on the TEDxWinnipeg stage.
Exploring your virtual identity in a digital world
John Luxford is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Flipside, a VR/AR company which created the first VR board game, Lost Cities, and currently is focused on developing a virtual animation studio — also called Flipside — which will allow YouTube users to create virtual avatars of themselves and produce animated shows in real-time.
Luxford, a seasoned open source software developer, began working in virtual reality several years ago and was amazed at its potential to provide individuals with the opportunity to explore their sense of self-identity.
“I see virtual avatars as being akin to tattoos,” he explains. “Just like tattoos augment someone’s sense of self-identity, virtual avatars enable us to be anything we can imagine.”
His TEDxWinnipeg talk will focus on the history of human self-expression across the ages. He’ll further explore how humans have altered their appearance to better express themselves and explore their individuality.
“The idea of kids identifying with a ‘digital self’ more than their physical self may sound scary,” says Luxford, “but VR and AR avatars will open us up to new and unexplored opportunities for self-empowerment, and will facilitate social connections in ways that weren’t possible before.”
Improving northern nutrition using vertical farming
Miyoung Suh has dedicated her life to studying ways that the food we eat impacts our health at both individual and community-based levels. Currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Suh is also trained as a clinical dietitian in the areas of gastroenterology, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
A staunch believer that the quality and quantity of dietary choices have a significant impact on the health of communities, she has spent the last several years working with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, where she’s been helping to implement vertical farming techniques originally developed in South Korea.
“I am very proud of Opaskwayak Cree Nation for their initiative on this project in the pursuit of improving community health,” she explains. “I hope that by sharing the story of this Northern community and its people, [others] will realize that they, too, are fighting a battle for accessibility to healthy food options.”
Since 2016, Suh has worked closely with individuals from Opaskwayak Cree Nation to install and maintain a “smart farm” which provides fresh and healthy vegetables year-round. “When fresh and affordable vegetables are readily available, communities stand a better chance against fighting against a multitude of health problems, including chronic disease,” she states.
She believes that the success of this smart farm, which uses hydroponic technology and modern vertical farming techniques, offers an opportunity to showcase the benefits that these systems may have for other Northern communities across Canada and beyond.