Tech festival plugs Mountain View innovation


Now in its fifth year, the annual Technology Showcase returned to Mountain View Tuesday with a panoply of gizmos and gadgetry from the city's tech firms, both big and small, new and old. With 30 exhibits from Mountain View's bustling tech sector, the city's Civic Center Plaza was transformed for one afternoon into an expo of robots, virtual reality displays and autonomous vehicles.

"Our goal here is to highlight Mountain View's tech giants but also the smaller guys who are up and coming," said city business development specialist Tiffany Chew, who co-organized the event. "We have such a vibrant community here."

While the tech sector may be prominent, the industry can still be removed from many residents. No regular citizen can just waltz into a tech firm to see what they're working on, and in turn many tech employees don't have a strong sense of connection to the city.

At its best, the city's Technology Showcase has been one way to bridge that disconnect and foster a better relationship between the tech firms and their hometown, Chew said.

Many of the familiar tech powerhouses were on display including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. NASA Ames occupied a series of booths devoted to its various research projects, including drones designed for Mars and techniques to extract DNA samples. A clear point of pride, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, was being promoted by the NASA team with free swag.

But there were also a handful of newcomers who saw the event as a chance to make a splash. Architect Christian Pomodoro, who just recently relocated his firm to Mountain View, set up a display to showcase his skill with virtual reality. Thanks to some clever design software and a VR headset, his customers could get a simulated walk-through of any home or building being drafted.

"It's just the sense of scale that 3D technology offers," Pomodoro said. "You can get the experience of walking through the space, see how the sunlight comes in, or how the shadows interplay."

Another larger newcomer was Nuro, one of the latest companies to join the self-driving car industry. Started by a pair of ex-Waymo employees, Nuro is focusing its efforts on adapting autonomous-driving technology for deliveries. Like some of its rivals, Nuro is already testing its driverless vehicles in Arizona but holding off on a testing debut in California.

Speaking to the crowd, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Humphrey said he was immensely proud of the tech talent on display.

"This is what Mountain View is all about: our technology and innovation," he said.

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