John Biehler says advances in 3-D printing around the world are bringing science fiction closer to reality.
The 3-D printing consultant told the Georgia Straight the additive-manufacturing technology is already being used to make cars, food, handbags, hearing aids, heart valves, and houses. But a real-life version of the Star Trek replicator is still a ways off.
“The benchmark always is, ‘Can I ask Siri to make me an Earl Grey tea, and it just appears?’ ” Biehler said by phone from Port Coquitlam, referring to Apple’s voice-recognition app. “We’re not quite there yet. There’s still a fair bit of human intervention that has to happen, but to me this is like the ground floor.”
Biehler is among a diverse group of people hoping to give 20-minute talks at Vancouver’s second BIL conference. BIL is a not-for-profit, participant-driven event that has taken place a few blocks away from the invitation-only TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference every year since 2008. Its name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the 1989 film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure starring Keanu Reeves.
With its “Truth and Dare” theme, the sold-out TED2015 will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre from March 16 to 20. Monica Lewinsky, social activist and former White House intern; Tony Fadell, who oversaw the creation of the iPod and cofounded Nest Labs; and Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, are among the luminaries slated to give TED talks at the US$8,500-a-ticket event.
Meanwhile, BIL 2015 will be held at the Imperial from March 21 to 22, with a pre-party on March 20. Last March, BIL 2014 drew about 400 people—including musician Amanda Palmer, author Neil Gaiman, and environmentalist Tzeporah Berman—to Five Sixty.
According to BIL cofounder Michael Cummings, in contrast to TED, everyone is invited to attend and encouraged to contribute to the “unconference”. The freelance web developer, who lives in Austin, Texas, told the Straight this year’s event will feature two or three speaking areas, breakout sessions, live music, and healthy activities. Admission is by donation, and speakers’ time-slots will be determined at the event.
“Obviously, TED has moved around, and we’ve followed them to Vancouver,” Cummings said by phone from Los Angeles. “We’re not trying to be aggressive towards TED. We consider ourselves an auxiliary event. We encourage TED attendees to come to our event as well.”
At BIL 2014, Biehler delivered a talk about how 3-D printing has changed his life, wherein he described his journey from hobbyist to educator. This year, he plans to speak about how a variety of industries—from automotive and fashion to food and health—are adopting the technology.
Biehler explained that a consumer-grade 3-D printer is akin to a robot that draws with a hot glue gun, typically using melted plastic. In the not-too-distant future, he envisions car dealerships producing vehicles and restaurants making personalized cakes with 3-D printing.
“Every day feels like science fiction to me,” Biehler said. “When I show it to people, on a regular basis, I see their mind blown, the gears turning in their head. They’re just blown away by the technology or they’re excited about the potential of what they could do themselves with it, if they had it in their garage or in their house or their workshop or their office or their company.”
Zoe Peled, events and marketing coordinator for the Vegan Project blog, also hopes to give a BIL talk. The South Cambie resident told the Straight her presentation will explore the ways marketing influences how we perceive animals and products derived from them.
“I think it’s really important to get people to challenge these perceptions and the ways that we have classified animals,” Peled said by phone from Fortune Sound Club. “I find that most people are surprised when you start talking about these subjects, just because no one has really called them on it in the past.”
Caroline MacGillivray is the founder and executive director of Beauty Night Society, a local charity that helps women and youth living in poverty build self-esteem through wellness, life-skills development, and makeover programs. The South Granville resident, who hosts the Sexy in Vancity radio show on CiTR 101.9 FM, told the Straight she plans to speak at BIL about how people can create change by building a community around a cause.
“What I’d really love to see is people get inspired—not just by my talk but by other talks that they hear—and start thinking about their own personal value system and how they can change the world by doing what they do uniquely and what their special talent is,” MacGillivray said by phone from a Mount Pleasant café. “I honestly think each of us has a magic superpower. Maybe that sounds really silly, but it’s true. I think most of us have more than one, and when we tap into that and really tap into what matters to us, we are really able to change the fabric of society.”
BIL 2015 will take place at the Imperial (319 Main Street) on March 21 and 22.