Brenda Laurel has been part of several major revolutions in the way humans use computers: virtual reality, interactive narratives and some fresh approaches to gaming.

Why you should listen

With a PhD in theater and a focus on interactive narratives, Brenda Laurel landed in Silicon Valley at the perfect moment -- at a time when theorists and technologists were exploring new ways that our expanded computing power could link us and entertain us in ways we couldn't yet imagine. She worked as a software designer and researcher for Atari and Activision, and co-founded a telepresence company in 1990.

In 1994 she became a founding member of Paul Allen and David Liddle's Interval Research, a legendary Silicon Valley think tank studying the connection between tech and everyday life. Interval was meant to spin off profitable companies, and Laurel led one of the highest-profile spinoffs, Purple Moon, a software company devoted to making games and interactive communities for girls. In the end-of-the-'90s collapse of the CD-ROM market, Purple Moon was acquired by Mattel and killed. Laurel wrote about the experience in the monograph Utopian Entrepreneur, "a guide to doing socially positive work in the context of business."

Laurel is the chair of the Graduate Program in Design at California College of the Arts. Her paper "Designed Animism: Poetics for a New World" looks at the new field of distributed sensing and how it can help us discover patterns in nature.

Read the TED Blog's Q&A with Brenda Laurel >>

Brenda Laurel’s TED talk

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