06:32
TED2012

Marco Tempest: A magical tale (with augmented reality)

Filmed:

Marco Tempest spins a beautiful story of what magic is, how it entertains us and how it highlights our humanity -- all while working extraordinary illusions with his hands and an augmented reality machine.

- Techno-illusionist
Marco Tempest is a cyber illusionist, combining magic and technology to produce astonishing illusions. Full bio

Marco Tempest: What I'd like to show you today
00:15
is something in the way of an experiment.
00:17
Today's its debut.
00:20
It's a demonstration of augmented reality.
00:22
And the visuals you're about to see are not prerecorded.
00:25
They are live
00:28
and reacting to me in real time.
00:30
I like to think of it as a kind of technological magic.
00:32
So fingers crossed.
00:37
And keep your eyes on the big screen.
00:40
Augmented reality
00:44
is the melding of the real world
00:46
with computer-generated imagery.
00:49
It seems the perfect medium
00:52
to investigate magic
00:54
and ask, why, in a technological age,
00:56
we continue to have
00:59
this magical sense of wonder.
01:01
Magic is deception,
01:04
but it is a deception we enjoy.
01:07
To enjoy being deceived,
01:10
an audience must first
01:12
suspend its disbelief.
01:14
It was the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge
01:16
who first suggested this receptive state of mind.
01:19
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I try to convey a semblance of truth in my writing
01:22
to produce for these shadows of the imagination
01:26
a willing suspension of disbelief
01:29
that, for a moment,
01:32
constitutes poetic faith.
01:34
MT: This faith in the fictional is essential
01:36
for any kind of theatrical experience.
01:39
Without it,
01:42
a script is just words.
01:44
Augmented reality
01:46
is just the latest technology.
01:48
And sleight of hand
01:50
is just an artful demonstration
01:52
of dexterity.
01:54
We are all very good at suspending our disbelief.
01:56
We do it every day,
01:58
while reading novels,
02:00
watching television
02:02
or going to the movies.
02:04
We willingly enter fictional worlds
02:06
where we cheer our heroes
02:08
and cry for friends we never had.
02:10
Without this ability
02:13
there is no magic.
02:15
It was Jean Robert-Houdin,
02:17
France's greatest illusionist,
02:19
who first recognized the role of the magician
02:21
as a storyteller.
02:23
He said something that I've posted on the wall of my studio.
02:25
Jean Robert-Houdin: A conjurer is not a juggler.
02:28
He is an actor playing the part of a magician.
02:30
MT: Which means magic is theater
02:34
and every trick
02:36
is a story.
02:38
The tricks of magic
02:40
follow the archetypes of narrative fiction.
02:42
There are tales of creation and loss,
02:44
death and resurrection,
02:48
and obstacles that must be overcome.
02:51
Now many of them are intensely dramatic.
02:55
Magicians play with fire and steel,
02:58
defy the fury of the buzzsaw,
03:00
dare to catch a bullet
03:02
or attempt a deadly escape.
03:04
But audiences don't come to see the magician die,
03:08
they come to see him live.
03:11
Because the best stories
03:13
always have a happy ending.
03:15
The tricks of magic have one special element.
03:17
They are stories with a twist.
03:20
Now Edward de Bono argued
03:23
that our brains are pattern matching machines.
03:25
He said that magicians deliberately exploit
03:28
the way their audiences think.
03:31
Edward de Bono: Stage magic relies almost wholly
03:34
on the momentum error.
03:36
The audience is led to make assumptions or elaborations
03:38
that are perfectly reasonable,
03:41
but do not, in fact, match
03:43
what is being done in front of them.
03:45
MT: In that respect,
03:47
magic tricks are like jokes.
03:49
Jokes lead us down a path
03:51
to an expected destination.
03:54
But when the scenario we have imagined suddenly flips
03:56
into something entirely unexpected,
03:59
we laugh.
04:01
The same thing happens
04:03
when people watch magic tricks.
04:05
The finale
04:07
defies logic,
04:10
gives new insight into the problem,
04:12
and audiences express their amazement
04:14
with laughter.
04:17
It's fun to be fooled.
04:19
One of the key qualities of all stories
04:21
is that they're made to be shared.
04:23
We feel compelled to tell them.
04:25
When I do a trick at a party --
04:27
(Laughter)
04:30
that person will immediately pull their friend over
04:32
and ask me to do it again.
04:34
They want to share the experience.
04:36
That makes my job more difficult,
04:38
because, if I want to surprise them,
04:40
I need to tell a story that starts the same,
04:42
but ends differently --
04:44
a trick with a twist
04:46
on a twist.
04:48
It keeps me busy.
04:50
Now experts believe
04:52
that stories go beyond our capacity for keeping us entertained.
04:54
We think in narrative structures.
04:58
We connect events and emotions
05:00
and instinctively transform them
05:04
into a sequence that can be easily understood.
05:07
It's a uniquely human achievement.
05:10
We all want to share our stories,
05:12
whether it is the trick we saw at the party,
05:14
the bad day at the office
05:17
or the beautiful sunset we saw on vacation.
05:19
Today, thanks to technology,
05:22
we can share those stories as never before,
05:25
by email, Facebook,
05:28
blogs, tweets,
05:31
on TED.com.
05:33
The tools of social networking,
05:35
these are the digital campfires
05:38
around which the audience gathers
05:40
to hear our story.
05:42
We turn facts into similes and metaphors,
05:44
and even fantasies.
05:47
We polish the rough edges of our lives
05:49
so that they feel whole.
05:51
Our stories make us the people we are
05:53
and, sometimes, the people we want to be.
05:56
They give us our identity
05:59
and a sense of community.
06:01
And if the story is a good one,
06:04
it might even make us smile.
06:07
Thank you.
06:13
(Applause)
06:15
Thank you.
06:19
(Applause)
06:21

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About the Speaker:

Marco Tempest - Techno-illusionist
Marco Tempest is a cyber illusionist, combining magic and technology to produce astonishing illusions.

Why you should listen

The Swiss magician began his performing career as a stage magician and manipulator, winning awards and establishing an international reputation. His interest in computer-generated imageryled him to incorporate video and digital technology in his work — and eventually to the development of a new form of contemporary illusion. The expansion of the Internet and social media provided more opportunities for digital illusions and ways of interacting with audiences and creating magically augmented realities. Tempest is a keen advocate of the open source community, working with artists, writers and technologists to create new experiences and research the practical uses of the technology of illusion. He is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab.

More profile about the speaker
Marco Tempest | Speaker | TED.com