Cesar Harada

TED Fellow and Inventor of Protei, a Technology that Cleans Oil Spills

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Cesar Harada | TED Fellow and Inventor of Protei, a Technology that Cleans Oil Spills
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Cesar Harada is using technology to save our planet, starting with our oceans. A French-Japanese entrepreneur and TED Fellow, Harada is the brains behind Protei—a groundbreaking, low-cost invention used, originally, to clean up oil spills. Protei is an unmanned, shape-shifting, revolutionary robot, and its impact—and that of Harada—is spreading. 

When Cesar Harada learned of the devastating effects of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he quit his dream job and moved to New Orleans to create a more efficient way to soak up the oil. He designed a highly maneuverable, flexible boat capable of cleaning large tracts quickly. Aside from dealing with oil spills, Harada’s Protei will also be used to measure radioactivity and plastic debris, monitor fisheries and coral reefs, provide general oceanographic data, and serve as a surface satellite link to underwater vehicles. 


Harada built Protei to be unmanned (no humans exposed to toxicants), green, and cheap. It is a machine that has sensing and decision-making skills, and the ability to right itself when necessary as it sails upwind and captures oil downwind. But rather than turn a profit, he has opted to open-source the design.


Harada and his team are also working on giving these robots a home: the International Ocean Station (IOS), an open-source hardware and software mobile laboratory. He taught Masters in Design & Environment at Goldsmiths University, London, and was a project leader at MIT. His films, installations, and lectures have been seen from America to Europe and Japan. He is currently based in Hong Kong. 

Speech Topics

Robots That Clean Our Oceans How Low-Cost Design is Saving the Planet
Current oil spill-skimming technology is severely lacking. For instance, it can only collect 3% of the DeepWater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While cleaning the spill, workers are exposed to cancerous toxicants, the boats they use are expensive, and you can't operate them at night, or during bad weather, such as hurricane season. Cesar Harada’s Protei is the complete opposite. In this fascinating talk, based on its creation and use, Harada shows us how new technologies are changing the way we respond to environmental crises. He touches on bio-inspired design, activism, financial consequences, and technological advances to deliver an empowering and ingenious vision for the future of our planet—one that is clean, healthy, and sustainable.