Inventors’ Speakeasy

Join us to engage in open dialogue with those who have an inspired take on human creativity, invention, discovery and innovation.

3:00-3:30 p.m.

Paul Davies
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist
Director of the Beyond Center
Gary Dirks
Sustainability scientist
Director of LightWorks and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

3:30-4:00 p.m.

Sasha Barab
Learning scientist and professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact
Katina Michael
School for the Future of Innovation in Society School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering
Director of the Center for Engineering, Policy and Society

4:00-4:30 p.m.

Alexandrina Agloro
Media artist, community-based researcher, game designer, and professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society
Jesse Senko
Conservation scientist and research professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

4:30-5:00 p.m.

Liz Lerman
Choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker
Institute Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Adriene Jenik
Media artist and professor of Intermedia
School of Art

5:00-5:30 p.m.

Michael Bennett
Technoculture critic, lawyer, and professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society Center for Science and the Imagination Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
Adriene Jenik
Media artist and professor of Intermedia
School of Art

5:30-6:00 p.m.

Rachel Mushahwar
Vice President & General Manager US Sales Enterprise, Government, Next Wave Cloud Providers
Intel Corporation
David Guston
Political scientist
Founding Director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society

ARTificial Creativity and Invention

Artificial intelligence techniques have experienced a renaissance in recent years with neural networks, a type of algorithm that is (loosely) modeled after connectionist models of the brain. In this exhibit, we explore the use of generative adversarial networks (GANs) which learn to create visual media by training on large datasets of human-generated images, and then output novel images when fed a random vector input, generating the image ex nihilo. Experience the progression of images generated by GANs from their early nascent stages as pixelated creatures through their turbulent adolescent times before reaching a tentative mature adulthood that you see at the end.

Can We Make it? Should We Make It?

Do you have an invention that could make the world a better place?

Can We Make It? Should We Make it? is a live, public event for inventors to showcase their creations. Submit your invention to be part of the show! If you are selected, you will get to present your invention live, on stage, to our panel of experts and get their feedback on your invention. Not an inventor? Come be part of the audience and participate in the show with our emoji-voting system which lets you decide Can We Make it? Should We Make It? alongside our experts!
Submit your Invention!

KickSTARter videos exploring ethics and the social construction of invention in the Star Trek Universe by Lea Cruz, Brooke Nelson, John Rudebeck, Daniel Santos, Ben Showard-Guerrero and Alyssa Henning.

El Espacio Entre Nosotros

El Espacio Entre Nosotros translates to ‘The Space between us.’ This multimedia installation aims at exposing the space in-between consciousness, identities, borders, and interstellarspace. The work uses sculpture and video, and draws inspiration from the word Nepantla, Gonzalez asks participants to discover the space that lies in-between as a way of acknowledging multiple perspectives. “Nepantla,” the word comes from the indigenous Nahuatl speaking people, the Mexica, more commonly known as the Aztecs, and it means “in-between.” El Espacio Entre Nosotros is part of a larger narrative in Gonzalez’s work, a cosmology of sorts that explores her personal observations and perspectives on the contemporary rhetoric that surrounds immigration and borders.


re:frame reimagines place. Drawing on input from collaborators in the ASU and Tempe communities, re:frame invites viewers to explore the present-day landscape of ASU by allowing viewers to historically see back into time. Come join us and take a peek into the past!

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa’s message is to Transcend Fear. Her creation was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century tank design. Not surprisingly, she was constructed on an Italian truck chassis. She’s lined with thousands of individually programmable LEDs. Her armor can be truly frightening – but her intimate interior invites you to transcend those fears.

Optimum Conditions

What are the optimum conditions for invention? Is there even such thing as an optimum condition? Through a cross-species collaboration that brings together humans, microbes, plants, and technology to promote fermentation, this exhibit explores what surprises and new openings happen when conditions may — or may not — be just right for making something delicious happen.

Exquisite Observation: Learning How To See and Innovate from Nature

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s saper vedere (“knowing how to see”), participants will learn from nature’s genius. They will practice their observation skills and see how the natural world can inspire design, as it did with da Vinci, and dig deeper to see how biomimicry can lead to sustainable design.

Leonardo da Vinci considered saper vedere (“knowing how to see”) the innovator’s most important skill. He practiced the art of seeing through his drawings: it is estimated that he created more than 100,000 in his lifetime, some 6,000 of which are extant. Among the most famous are meticulous renderings of nature: bat wings that inspired designs for gliding machines and detailed sketches of human muscles, joints, and bones that informed the engineering of mechanical robots. At Emerge, a team of biologists and designers will lead a series of workshops entitled “Exquisite Observation: Learning How To See and Innovate from Nature.” Under their guidance, participants will replicate da Vinci’s creative process using observation and drawing to explore the designs of a collection of natural history artifacts. Tapping these studies, participants will then be asked to develop potential design applications. Workshop participants will receive:

  • An introduction to a selection of Da Vinci’s bio-inspired design and engineering solutions
  • An introduction to the use of a variety of tools for visualizing natural history artifacts, including hand lenses, microscopes, and smartphone zoom lenses
  • Instruction in the ecology and natural history of select natural history artifacts
  • Instruction in the basics of observing and drawing from nature
  • Guidance in the protocols for developing bio-inspired applications

Co-Creating Our Automotive Futures

Co-Creating Our Automotive Futures features a gallery of historical visions of urban futures, a co-creation space, and 3D-printed prototypes of future cars, as well as an interactive design environment.

The automobile has shaped where and how we live, creating a dependence on fossil fuels, increasing pollution, hastening climate change, and urban sprawl. It has also been at the center of how we imagine the future of our communities and even our collective identity. But as new technologies — from autonomous vehicles and ridesharing to e-scooters — reshape how people and things move around, how can we collaboratively imagine the future of the car and what that means for our lives? In this exhibit, participants will collaborate with artists and students to co-create new designs for the future of the car and what that means for our communities and cities.

Geodesic Radio

Geodesic Radio invites you to help understand what happened in the future. Enter into a secret room where the mysterious Xavier has created “crazy boards” with clues from the year 2071. Pick up where he left off by constructing wild theories and hypotheses about a world turned upside down—boat people scavenging for plastic in the ocean, crowds cheering for albatross, protesters fighting the plastic economy. One ecologist’s legacy may tie it all together.

Clues are scattered throughout the room, left where Xavier abandoned them. Contribute to the ever-evolving “crazy board” by stringing together the clues that build your image of the future.
Geodesic Radio is an innovative approach to public engagement with science. Visitors are invited to enter an imaginative space in order to speculate about future possibilities of how we, as a society, might adapt to and cope with a radically changed natural world. This is framed within a fiction where a scientist has gathered clues about the future but isn’t able to make sense of them on his own. The snapshots, drawings, and audio clips of the future seem random and mysterious. But this means they are open to interpretation and there is no “right” answer. Rather than dictating the scientific community’s predictions to visitors, visitors are asked to come to their own conclusions based on their values, beliefs, and imagination. Creating this kind of collaborative story is an opportunity for our community to discuss important environmental and social issues.


Utopia — No Place

Utopia — No Place is a digital theater performance that bursts the bounds of traditional theater to ask about our possible futures, seen from the perspective of scientists and inventors from different time periods. The performance is brought into being using mobile technologies, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

Inventor 1—Past

Young da Vinci is all wide-eyed wonder at the world, seeking to explain how it works. He sees painting as a way to represent and understand form as an expression of function. Leonardo uses the natural world as a template to fabricate engineering experiments, just like engineers working in the field of biomimicry do today. His work was  supported financially by the Medici, a wealthy Italian family that also bankrolled the Catholic church. The Medici secretly supported da Vinci’s science experiments in vivisection, which the Church considered sacrilege, an invasion of God’s form.

Inventor 2—Present

Plenty of scientists have worked on AI. Machine learning has become commonplace and integral to the management of big data; cold and sterile, calculating, excellent in the world of manufacture. But this inventor has started to detect anomalies that concerned her. AI prioritizes information for efficiency’s sake without regard to its possible effects on humanity. She programs the first successfully functioning empathy overlay, modeled after herself, and is excited to watch her “baby” grow.

Inventor 3—Future

In a future full of AI agents, humans have not become superfluous, but due to rapidly decaying environment (because of global warming plus another cataclysmic, extinction-level event), AI has taken over repopulation. Biodiversity is integral to survival, and human ingenuity and creativity is vital for its existence. In order to foster creativity, AI systems help to foster meaningful connections between humans, encouraging interactions free of jealousy and fear. Machine learning should contribute to the development of humanity.
Audience members will visit each of these three different scientific worlds. Visitors will also engage in tasks that generate a unique virtual-reality world for each performance: one of many possible Utopias, places that do not exist (yet).

Direction: Chris Ziegler

Assistant: Polen On

Author: Shomit Barua

Costume Design: Tyler Harris

Media Design, Graphics: Elora Mastison

Sound, Music: Garrett Johnson, Anthony John Arellano

VR Operator: Blert Rizvanolli

Dr. Jensen/Moira: Alyssa Linares

DaVinci: Hugo Crick-Furman

Future Scientist: Jordan-Kerry Mitchell

Chaperons: Shalanndra Benally, Brandon Nguyen, Jordan-Kerry Mitchell

Utopia Software Developments were based on Research of the European Theater Lab and their international Coproduction ZIGAMGORA – Stage your City,

developed and performed 2017-2018 in Theaters in France, Germany and Norway.

Braitenberg Acrobats

Braitenberg Acrobats is a system of suspended animated lights that move around in 3D space. Observers may see a system that looks orderly and well-coordinated or chaotic, depending on the current state of the system. Observers may become a part of the system by attempting to focus light (from a phone or other light source) at the light sensors on the acrobats.

This system is inspired by Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology, by Valentino Braitenberg. Braitenberg Acrobats are robotic “marionette” systems. Three motors change the length of three strings from which each acrobat is suspended, allowing three-dimensional control of their position. Each acrobat is a self-contained unit of motors, light sensors, and LED light emitters. Simple programming of each acrobat determines a relation between sensory input and actuator (light and motor) output. The proximity of one acrobat to another allows them to energetically couple (one sensing the light of another), resulting in an emergent pattern of light and movement that is determined by their initial states, their internally defined sensory-motor linkages, and chance.

This robotic system is inspired by biological and neurological mechanisms that are energetically open but informationally closed to one another. Any “communication” between them is determined by their internal structures, which may be changed if they are sensitive to an external energy to which they are exposed. Such systems are often structurally simple but appear highly complex, both in their physically manifest behaviors and in their hidden but seemingly present psychological states.

Inventions of Desire: A Moviegoer’s Guide to the Future

March 30 at 7:00 p.m.

We are living in the most technologically advanced time in human history. Driven by a near-insatiable desire for invention, we are reprogramming biology, creating machines that think for themselves, and even redesigning ourselves in ways that far transcend our evolutionary roots. We are on a roller-coaster of invention that is, quite literally, the ride of our lives. And the faster we go, the harder it’s getting to keep to the tracks.
Drawing on his new book Films from the Future and featuring clips from movies that include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park, Transcendence, and Contact, Andrew Maynard will take you on a journey into our “inventions of desire,” and the challenges and opportunities they present as we strive to build a better future.

Patent Labyrinth: Non-human Flowchart

How are new inventions classified? How do they make their way through the patent system? This interactive mural depicts the variety of categories used by the International Patent System and challenges visitors to discover pathways to making a new invention a reality.

Categorizing non-humans entities is a challenge. For the last two centuries, with the origin of intellectual property laws and regulations, the ways to classify an artifact or process as novel, original, and useful are in flux. We can see how those categories neglect the systemic and interactive nature of inventions and how they tend to transpose living beings into the realm of property (like genomes, seeds, and plants). This entire enterprise produces tension between the living and the non-living through a dizzying array of arcane questions. Thee Patent Labyrinth flowchart explores and contests those categorizations and asks the public to discover and critique how inventions become patentable and thus ready for market. The mural will spark public debate and will be supported by an installation guide, video instruction, and sample inventions that users can classify using the flowchart.