14.01.14

InAVator: Dr Kate Stone, Novalia

Nial Anderson speaks to Dr Kate Stone – the creator of innovative touch-based printed products - whose journey to the cutting edge of electronics has been a long journey of discovery – of the world and of self.

On the stage at the 2013 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference at Long Beach in California USA Dr Kate Stone did something no-one had ever done before.

She mixed some music for the assembled audience, who had paid $6,000 each to attend the event, on a pair of imitation vinyl record decks made out of paper. To much applause from the crowd, she also played a drum kit on a printed paper poster by touching each drum with her finger.

Being chosen to speak at the event, which has hosted such speakers as Bill Gates and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, was one of the proudest moments of her life, she said.

But an explanation of this technology is in danger of being less interesting than her own story; how a self-confessed educational drop-out found the inspiration to start a new career while working on a 120,000 acre sheep farm in Australia.

As a child, Dr Stone threaded wires underneath the carpet and behind the walls of her bedroom. Using hidden speakers and a tape player, she would startle her siblings when they came in to find her voice coming out of various unlikely areas of the room. Another project born of a restless mind obsessed with electronics found her hiding an FM transmitter in a hollowed out book. Leaving it near her father, she found she could eavesdrop on his conversations by tuning in a radio in another room.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to really eavesdrop, I just liked the idea of everyday items that could do extraordinary things,” she explained.
“I wanted the technology, but I wanted it hidden away.”

At an age when most children would be concerning themselves with more simple pursuits, a young mind preoccupied with accomplishing such feats with electronics should have excelled at school. Academically, however, Dr Stone admits she “totally failed”.

To read more open the digital version of InAVate here.