The Mountain View Civic Center Plaza was transformed into an extravaganza of robots, self-driving cars and other gizmos for the city's annual Technology Showcase on Wednesday.
Now in its fourth year, the city's Technology Showcase has become a premier event for showing the latest products from Mountain View's businesses. The exhibitors included many of the big players -- Google, Facebook and LinkedIn -- as well as a number of new startups still in their infancy.
Resonado, an audio company in Mountain View, was started by three college students about a year ago. Resonado engineering head Christian Femrite said his company had reinvented audio speakers so they no longer had to adhere to a conical shape. Their patented speakers could be molded to fit pretty much any shape, saving energy and space, he said.
"We're the first ones to do this," Femrite said, pointing out that speakers have basically kept the same design for more than a century.
A short walk away, Sensel, a company based on San Antonio Road, was promoting its next-generation keypads. Unlike standard keyboards, Sensel produces pressure pads with a variety of simple rubber overlays that can rest on top. Along with the standard QWERTY keyboard, Sensel also had overlays that could swap out for piano keys, a drum kit, game controllers and video editing.
This year's event definitely showed some big themes -- practically half the exhibitors were hawking technology related to virtual reality (VR) or artificial intelligence. Even the healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente had a booth to promote its VR research as a potential pain management tool.
VR technology could be useful for patients dealing with pain or psychological trauma, said Roger Lam, Kaiser principal engineer. A person trying to cope with social anxiety could be gradually introduced into simulated social situations, he said. Or, the technology could be used to distract patients from pain or discomfort during minor medical procedures, possibly in lieu of medication, he said. Kaiser is currently conducting clinical trials, he said.
Putting on the Technology Showcase is a considerable undertaking for the city's three-person economic development team. Tiffany Chew, business development specialist, said her team spends much of the early summer organizing the event and encouraging new companies to attend.
"There's always something new, and we do quite a bit of research to put this event on," Chew said. "This is a chance for us to showcase the important companies that Mountain View has."