SAN JOSE -- The Tech Museum of Innovation, which opened late last
year, gave San Jose a new exhibit worthy of its place as the
gateway to Silicon Valley.
Within its 132,000 square feet of exhibit space are examples of
gadgets and gizmos of every conceivable stripe.
It houses hands-on (or, as the operators of the museum prefer to
call it, "minds-on") displays, interactive exhibits, laboratories,
a lecture series and more.
Among its most popular features is a 295-seat IMAX dome theater
with an 82-foot-diameter screen and 44 speakers powered by more
than 12,000 watts of amplification. Nobody sleeps in the IMAX! Some
of the highlights include:A virtual bobsled ride, using the kind of simulation equipment
used to train Olympic athletes away from the bobsled chutes.Ultrasound monitors that allow visitors to see inside their own
bodies, the same kind of machines used by physicians in diagnosing
patients' internal ailments.Equipment that allows visitors to "draw" a 3-D map of their own
heads, using a laser scanner with 360-degree rotation
The scanner produces a bar-code ticket that is then presented to
one of two stations, where the outline and contours of the head are
shown and a photograph may be printed out.Med Tech, a tour of a virtual operating room.
Not surprisingly, The Tech, as it is commonly known, is designed
as an educational and fun resource for people of all ages,
according to officials. The facility is regarded as Silicon
Valley's newest. Strictly speaking, only the building is new; the
museum has been in operation, on a smaller and less grandiose
scale, since 1990 when the Junior League of Palo Alto, later joined
by the San Jose Junior League, first opened it in temporary
Just 20,000 square feet in size, these quarters had to suffice
until last Oct. 31, when the new, much bigger premises were
completed. The Tech cost $113 million to create, an expenditure to
which more than 500 high-tech companies in the nation's most
inventive valley contributed $32 million of in-kind services; the
remainder of the outlay was provided by the City of San Jose
Redevelopment Agency and by private citizens.
Museum officials projected that between 650,000 and 700,000
would pass through The Tech's turnstiles in its first full year of
existence. Based on the results achieved so far, some people
believe that they might need to revise that figure upward.
The Tech has become an instant San Jose landmark. Not only has
the museum become a big-time visitor attraction, it has also become
a reception facility for local businesses and groups.
Last month, it got a thorough exposure to the retail travel
industry when it was the site of a gathering of almost 500 travel
agents at a function sponsored by San Jose Airport, Host Marriott
Services and Travel Weekly.