San Jose 2/3: The Tech Museum of Innovation

This past weekend in mid-January I was fortunate enough to have visited San Jose for the first time!

My time here was rather limited since I was here for a big Smash event (in an upcoming post), but whenever I’m visiting somewhere new I always make it a priority to explore the city and its renowned galleries and museums as much possible. Over here, I decided to check out the Museum of Art and the Tech Museum of Innovation. I’ll be talking about the latter here.

The Tech Museum of Innovation was simply put, so good! I’m a software engineer myself so that may or may not be completely biased, haha. Lots to see, lots to do. I personally loved the fact that it was definitely more of an innovation museum than a technology museum. The plethora of technology displays were so interactive, both with the viewer and as a social tool in general. In Silicon Valley a common criticism is that while many of their inventions are useful, they aren’t necessary per se (such as mobile apps); this exhibit definitely proved that saying wrong.

A friend and I started off at the top floor, the “Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery,” which I found to be the most rewarding exhibit of the day. They had lots of neat inventions encouraging social interaction, starting off with this neat floor space that forms circles wherever you go: magical things happen when two people approach each other.

From their website (Source)

Another cool creation they made was this social musical instrument. With cubes as the main source of sound (different blocks representing melody, harmony, etc), whatever side was facing down would be the music playing, each side representing a different region in the world. Even turning the cube would play a different soundtrack. The squares and circles shown below when attached to a cube would be filters to complement the music, for example with reverbs. With anybody and everybody having the power to control each piece, the combinations were endless.

From their website (Source)

Along the hallway was a nifty robot that would actually converse with you, similar to Siri. He’d be able to call you by name, tell you the weather, calculate mathematical equations, and probably a lot more that I hadn’t witnessed!

The boy’s face when the robot called him by his name!

Also on this floor were separate exhibits “Innovations in Health Care” and “The Tech Awards Gallery.” The former was an eye-opening way of introducing technology into the medical world and how technology can save lives, such as using 3-D printing for body organs. The latter was technology not in the way that you think of it today with everything being high-tech and all computers, but instead being innovative with tools to serve a different purpose, such as creating liquid glasses which adjusts the prescription for the wearer based on the amount of fluid in the lens.

The bottom floor consisted of many exhibitions: “Body Metrics,” “Cyber Detectives,” “Exploration Gallery,” “Social Robots,” and “The Tech Studio.”

“Body Metrics” had a lot of fun interactive tools used for the participant to become more aware of their, well, body metrics. A small section within this exhibit made use of a Kinect camera to measure body movement and range of motion, for example. Fitbits are the upcoming technology related to this exhibit that are definitely changing lives by the day.

“Cyber Detectives” was a creative exhibit in introducing people, especially kids, into the networking and cyber security world. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always wondered how people were interested enough, of all things, to go into a career of simply having computers talk to each other; not when you can do similar things with that background such as actually creating application products. This exhibit definitely proved things wrong, having an interactive game of how encryption and decryption works, and how packets with malware are detected in a network. Kids were definitely having fun in this section.

The biggest selling point in the “Exploration Gallery” was this “Jet Pack Chair” simulating a ride as a real astronaut. I never had the time to try it myself since there was a long long, but everyone seemed to have definitely enjoyed it. The rest of the exhibit was mostly straight out of textbooks, with several props you can touch to help visualize and process the data.

“Social Robots” was an exhibit which I never did check out since it looked like it was only for the little ones, but in there lots of the kids were having immense fun building their own robots with provided controllers and sensors. Likewise in “The Tech Studio,” kids were creating airplanes and connecting puzzle blocks together, learning how to tweak with tools and how putting things together creates something amazing.

From their website (Source)

This museum is definitely aimed more toward the kids, but everyone can and will enjoy a walk through a museum featuring the most innovative and inventive city in the world. The sheer amount of creativity, especially in the sciences, welcomes a breath of fresh air to all who walk in. It’s definitely made me appreciate the work that I do, while at the same time making me excited and wanting to look forward into what’s to come in my career. If you’re visiting San Jose, no matter what this HAS to be one of your stopping points during your stay!


Author: Kevin Who

Developer. Designer. Smasher. Reader. Creator.

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