Features & Columns

Tech + Tasting invades Santana Row

Event pairs wine sampling with components of past
and upcoming shows from the Tech Museum
Tech + Tasting TOUCH TONES: The Minimasher jambox allows users to make sounds using touch sensors that trigger different noises and effects.

The Tech Museum of Innovation will invade Santana Row this Thursday for a grand route of "Tech + Tasting." The wine-and-shine soiree is destined to showcase not only remnants from recent museum shows, like REBOOT: Music, but also some brand new high-tech phenomena from upcoming exhibits.

Different spots along the wine walk will present visitors with Tech Museum displays, all to help ratchet up the museum's outreach into the community at large. Meaning, attendees can sample a smoky Cabernet with a Minimasher jambox, perhaps an Alsatian Pinot Blanc with some freehand plastic creation, or even a California chardonnay with a Somaxis muscle sensor.

In one instance, "Your Life in Data," will provide visitors a sneak peek into The Tech's upcoming health and wellness exhibit, which opens later this year. Attendees can experience the latest in wearable data gathering. I've already been told this is going to be a rocking explosive show, featuring not just wearable devices, mobile medical technologies, or ways a Smartphone can track your blood sugar, but also ways that devices can track the behaviors and responses of those surrounding you in order to determine your emotional health. I don't know about you, but I could definitely take advantage of that one.

At the "Your Life in Data," component of the event, participants will get outfitted with devices to see what they can learn about themselves through data. According to the liner notes, "Brainwaves, muscle tension, pulse, light levels, colors, faces, speech and voice levels will all be logged and displayed back to you." After a few glasses of wine, that could be fun. Wearable devices currently on the market, such as Google Glass, Somaxis EXG, Fitbit, Zamzee, and Narrative Clip, will be available for all oenophiles who participate. You don't need to be a tech sommelier of any sort.

Lath Carlson, VP of Exhibits at The Tech, gave me the lowdown on what visitors might experience at the upcoming health and wellness exhibit. Featuring both commercial technology and research not yet available to the public, the show will focus on all the data streams generated by the human experience.

"One of the things we realized early on is that what's also really important is not only your physical health and wellness, but also your mental and emotional state and how closely that's tied to your physical health and also your social relationships," Carlson told me, explaining that the exhibition will explore how mobile digital technologies can track such things. Visitors will take away insights into their own behaviors and learn how those behaviors are changeable. If you're awkward, socially inept and can't communicate freely whenever you want to, and it affects how others act around you, then certain technologies can track their behavior and let you know how to improve yourself. Not that I'm speaking personally, of course.

"[Exhibit visitors] can change things about their physiological state and circumstances and get feedback as they do that," Carlson said. "In the exhibition we'll be using a variety of digital tools to do that, and then data mining and data visualization, and how having smartphones and these things in your pocket gives you an incredible amount of insight into your own behavior."

Since the Tech Museum will open another show next year, this one exploring privacy and security issues, another piece of Tech + Tasting will also showcase technologies similar to what will appear in that particular exhibit. Armed with nothing but a vintage Riesling, Santana Rowers can challenge their friends to a hackers duel. Who can break into a safe first and claim the prize? What's the best way in, pick the lock, crack the code, or jump the right wires? Carlson says the privacy and security exhibit, slotted for next spring, will explore cybersecurity and physical security issues.

"It's been fascinating to see the interest," Carlson said. "[It was originally] one of the lowest things people were interested in, when we tested visitors. I think it was one step above patent law, in our original research. But after Snowden and all these breaches that have happened at Target and eBay and other places, the public interest in the topic has just skyrocketed."