Qantas hosts first in-flight Ted Talk

Robotics engineer Marita Cheng will speak onboard the Qantas flight from Sydney to San Francisco on Wednesday. Photo / iStock
Robotics engineer Marita Cheng will speak onboard the Qantas flight from Sydney to San Francisco on Wednesday. Photo / iStock

Qantas passengers heading to San Francisco and Silicon Valley arrived better educated after the airline hosted the world's first Ted Talk on board a plane.

In a big step up from the traditional TEDxSydney stage, four speakers including robotics entrepreneur Marita Cheng spoke on board the Qantas flight QF73 from Sydney to San Francisco on Wednesday evening.

While the talk happened live in first class, it was also sent through the plane via the onboard audio system.

Cheng discussed her groundbreaking work with 2MAR robotics where she designs robots to help people with disabilities.

The entrepreneur won the Young Australian of the Year award in 2012 and is internationally recognised as an advocate for Women in Engineering for her work as founder of Robogals.

Other speakers included tech whiz Jo Burston, experimental physicist Michael Biercuk and business strategist Jeremy Howard.

The Qantas B747 was been given a new livery to celebrate the initiative, Ideas That Travel, and flew out of Sydney with a captive audience at 3pm (5pm NZ).

Qantas group executive Olivia Wirth said the airline was delighted to give these emerging thinkers a unique platform to tell their stories.

"We think it is a great opportunity to open up and provide more opportunities for innovation in communities both here and in San Francisco," Wirth said.

"We hope that we can inspire many more Australians to follow their dreams and set up businesses not only here in Australia but around the world," she said.

Edwina Throsby, head of curatorial for TEDxSydney, said the collaboration with Qantas was important for connecting and encouraging people to collaborate ideas and innovations.

"It is significantly important to us because it is a stone throne away from Silicon Valley, so what this is really doing is connecting Sydney to the tech city of the world," she said.

"It has got to make those connections, it has got to encourage people to travel and bring about those collaborations."

The TED talks will also be available online for fans to watch, following the flight's arrival in San Francisco.

Howard, the CEO and founder of machine learning company Enlitic, said while he was "mildly terrified" to present his speech, he was excited to share his vision with other passionate entrepreneurs.

"It sounds like it could be a challenging acoustic environment. I hope I don't screw it up too much," Howard said.

"Being able to share what I am doing as an Aussie to other Aussies is something I am very excited about."

He hoped the unique in-flight entertainment would encourage innovative thinkers to share their ideas.

"I hope that people flying on Qantas will see these entrepreneurs and think, gee maybe I can do that."

- AAP

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