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  • Hello.

  • My name is Simone.

  • You know how people tell you if you get nervous when onstage,

  • picture people in the audience naked?

  • Like it's this thing that's supposed to make you feel better.

  • But I was thinking --

  • picturing all of you naked in 2018 feels kind of weird and wrong.

  • Like, we're working really hard on moving past stuff like that,

  • so we need a new method of dealing with

  • if you get nervous onstage.

  • And I realized that what I'd really like

  • is that I can look at you as much as you're looking at me --

  • just to even things out a little bit.

  • So if I had way more eyeballs,

  • then we'd all be really comfortable, right?

  • So in preparation for this talk, I made myself a shirt.

  • (Rattling)

  • (Laughter)

  • It's googly eyes.

  • It took me 14 hours

  • and 227 googly eyes to make this shirt.

  • And being able to look at you as much as you're looking at me

  • is actually only half of the reason I made this.

  • The other half is being able to do this.

  • (Googly eyes rattle)

  • (Laughter)

  • So I do a lot of things like this.

  • I see a problem and I invent some sort of solution to it.

  • For example, brushing your teeth.

  • Like, it's this thing we all have to do, it's kind of boring,

  • and nobody really likes it.

  • If there were any seven-year-olds in the audience,

  • they'd be like, "Yes!"

  • So what about if you had a machine that could do it for you?

  • (Laughter)

  • I call it ...

  • I call it "The Toothbrush Helmet."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Robot arm buzzing)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So my toothbrush helmet is recommended by zero out of 10 dentists,

  • and it definitely did not revolutionize the world of dentistry,

  • but it did completely change my life.

  • Because I finished making this toothbrush helmet three years ago

  • and after I finished making it,

  • I went into my living room and I put up a camera,

  • and I filmed a seven-second clip of it working.

  • And by now,

  • this is a pretty standard modern-day fairy tale

  • of girl posting on the internet,

  • the internet takes the girl by storm,

  • thousands of men voyage into the comment sections

  • to ask for her hand in marriage --

  • (Laughter)

  • She ignores all of them, starts a YouTube channel

  • and keeps on building robots.

  • Since then, I've carved out this little niche for myself on the internet

  • as an inventor of useless machines,

  • because as we all know,

  • the easiest way to be at the top of your field

  • is to choose a very small field.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So I run a YouTube channel about my machines,

  • and I've done things like cutting hair with drones --

  • (Drone buzzes)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Drone crashes)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Drone buzzes)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • To a machine that helps me wake up in the morning --

  • (Alarm)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Video) Simone: Ow!

  • To this machine that helps me chop vegetables.

  • (Knives chop)

  • I'm not an engineer.

  • I did not study engineering in school.

  • But I was a super ambitious student growing up.

  • In middle school and high school, I had straight A's,

  • and I graduated at the top of my year.

  • On the flip side of that,

  • I struggled with very severe performance anxiety.

  • Here's an email I sent to my brother around that time.

  • "You won't understand how difficult it is for me to tell you,

  • to confess this.

  • I'm so freaking embarrassed.

  • I don't want people to think that I'm stupid.

  • Now I'm starting to cry too.

  • Damn."

  • And no, I did not accidentally burn our parents' house down.

  • The thing I'm writing about in the email and the thing I'm so upset about

  • is that I got a B on a math test.

  • So something obviously happened between here and here.

  • (Laughter)

  • One of those things was puberty.

  • (Laughter)

  • Beautiful time indeed.

  • But moreover,

  • I got interested in building robots,

  • and I wanted to teach myself about hardware.

  • But building things with hardware, especially if you're teaching yourself,

  • is something that's really difficult to do.

  • It has a high likelihood of failure

  • and moreover,

  • it has a high likelihood of making you feel stupid.

  • And that was my biggest fear at the time.

  • So I came up with a setup that would guarantee success 100 percent of the time.

  • With my setup, it would be nearly impossible to fail.

  • And that was that instead of trying to succeed,

  • I was going to try to build things that would fail.

  • And even though I didn't realize it at the time,

  • building stupid things was actually quite smart,

  • because as I kept on learning about hardware,

  • for the first time in my life,

  • I did not have to deal with my performance anxiety.

  • And as soon as I removed all pressure and expectations from myself,

  • that pressure quickly got replaced by enthusiasm,

  • and it allowed me to just play.

  • So as an inventor,

  • I'm interested in things that people struggle with.

  • It can be small things or big things or medium-sized things

  • and something like giving a TED talk presents this whole new set of problems

  • that I can solve.

  • And identifying a problem is the first step in my process

  • of building a useless machine.

  • So before I came here,

  • I sat down and I thought of some of the potential problems I might have

  • in giving this talk.

  • Forgetting what to say.

  • That people won't laugh --

  • that's you.

  • Or even worse,

  • that you'll laugh at the wrong things --

  • that was an OK part to laugh at,

  • thank you.

  • (Laughter)

  • Or that when I get nervous, my hands start shaking

  • and I'm really self-conscious about it.

  • Or that my fly has been open this entire time

  • and all of you noticed but I didn't,

  • but it's closed so we're all good on that one.

  • But one thing I'm actually really nervous about is my hands shaking.

  • I remember when I was a kid,

  • giving presentations in school,

  • I would have my notes on a piece of paper,

  • and I would put a notebook behind the paper

  • so that people wouldn't be able to see the paper quivering.

  • And I give a lot of talks.

  • I know that about half of you in the audience are probably like,

  • "Building useless machines is really fun,

  • but how is this in any way or form a business?"

  • And giving talks is a part of it.

  • And the arrangers always put out a glass of water for you onstage

  • so you have something to drink if you get thirsty,

  • and I always so badly want to drink that water,

  • but I don't dare to pick the glass up

  • because then people might be able to see that my hands are shaking.

  • So what about a machine that hands you a glass of water?

  • Sold to the nervous girl in the googly-eye shirt.

  • Actually, I need to take this off because I have a thing --

  • (Googly eyes rattle)

  • Oh.

  • (Clanking)

  • (Laughter)

  • I still don't know what to call this,

  • but I think some sort of "head orbit device,"

  • because it rotates this platform around you

  • and you can put anything on it.

  • You can have a camera; you can get photos of your entire head.

  • Like it's really -- it's a very versatile machine.

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, and I have --

  • I mean, you can put some snacks on it, for example,

  • if you want to.

  • I have some popcorn here.

  • And you just put a little bit like that.

  • And then you want to --

  • there's some sacrifices for science --

  • just some popcorn falling on the floor.

  • Let's do the long way around.

  • (Robot buzzes)

  • (Laughter)

  • And then you have a little hand.

  • You need to adjust the height of it,

  • and you just do it by shrugging.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • It has a little hand.

  • (Hand thwacks)

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • I just bumped my mic off,

  • but I think we're all good.

  • OK, also I need to chew this popcorn,

  • so if you guys could just clap your hands a little bit more --

  • (Applause)

  • OK, so it's like your own little personal solar system,

  • because I'm a millennial,

  • so I want everything to revolve around me.

  • (Laughter)

  • Back to the glass of water, that's what we're here for.

  • So, I promise -- I mean, it still has --

  • it doesn't have any water in it,

  • I'm sorry.

  • But I still need to work on this machine a little bit

  • because I still need to pick up the glass and put it on the platform,

  • but if your hands are shaking a little bit,

  • nobody's going to notice

  • because you're wearing a very mesmerizing piece of equipment.

  • So, we're all good.

  • OK.

  • (Robot buzzes)

  • (Singing)

  • Oh no, it got stuck.

  • Isn't it comforting that even robots sometimes get stage fright?

  • It just gets stuck a little bit.

  • It's very human of them.

  • Oh wait, let's go back a little bit,

  • and then --

  • (Glass falls)

  • (Laughter)

  • Isn't it a beautiful time to be alive?

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So as much as my machines can seem like simple engineering slapstick,

  • I realize that I stumbled on something bigger than that.

  • It's this expression of joy and humility that often gets lost in engineering,

  • and for me it was a way to learn about hardware

  • without having my performance anxiety get in the way.

  • I often get asked if I think I'm ever going to build something useful,

  • and maybe someday I will.

  • But the way I see it,

  • I already have

  • because I've built myself this job

  • and it's something that I could never have planned for,

  • or that I could --

  • (Applause)

  • It's something that I could never have planned for.

  • Instead it happened just because I was enthusiastic about what I was doing,

  • and I was sharing that enthusiasm with other people.

  • To me that's the true beauty of making useless things,

  • because it's this acknowledgment

  • that you don't always know what the best answer is.

  • And it turns off that voice in your head

  • that tells you that you know exactly how the world works.

  • And maybe a toothbrush helmet isn't the answer,

  • but at least you're asking the question.