By Barbara Smith
Artificial intelligence, wearable technology, electric vehicles, and smart homes are among the hottest conversations in consumer electronics today. These topics and more were showcased last weekend at the San Diego Oasis ”Get Connected” Tech Fair, held at the organization’s new facility in Grossmont Center. Nearly 600 curious older learners immersed themselves in all things techie at Oasis’ 5th annual fete, which featured lectures, demonstrations and plenty of hands-on experience to help older adults master technology and “speak geek.”
“There’s nothing like this ‘Get Connected Technology Fair for 50+’ anywhere else,” says an enthusiastic Simona Valanciute, Oasis President & CEO. “It’s a unique educational opportunity, made possible through partnerships and sponsorships, to offer a full day of tech talks, exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, and giveaways.” A variety of committed representatives from business, health, government and education organizations including County of San Diego Aging and Independent Services, Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, AT&T, SDG&E, and San Diego Continuing Education pool time and resources, underwriting all the activities of the day so that all of the events, including lunch, are free to attendees.
Oasis is a non-profit national organization that provides lifelong learning experiences for older adults, with San Diego’s program the largest in the country, offering over 1700 classes, travel activities and intergenerational volunteer opportunities.
“We want to be adventurous in what we offer,” adds Valanciute, “because with technology, the next update is here in 18 months or less.” Trying to keep up with the pace and complexity can be frightening and intimidating, especially for older adults and with the Technology Fair, as with the many classes Oasis offers throughout the year, challenges are met with older learner in minds. “Oasis provides a comfortable learning environment so that no one feels it’s too fast or scary. Everyone is learning with their peers at their level.”
Among the over 20 lectures and demonstrations was “How to Outsmart the Personal Information Thieves,” presented by Deputy District Attorney Brenden McHugh; “What is Fake News and How to Detect It,” presented by Tom Karlo, KPBS General Manager; and “Technology and Orthopedics: Get Help with Knees, Hips and Other Aches and Pains,” presented by Rina Jain. MD, Scripps Health.
“I don’t want to take these off!” exclaimed one excited participant who had donned the EverSound wireless earphones at the “Hearables for All” talk by Davis Park, Front Porch Center for Innovation & Wellbeing. The device is designed exclusively for the needs of older adults and is one of several accessible, affordable and connected innovations hitting the marketplace to address the challenges of hearing loss.
Jibo, one of the newest innovations in consumer-driven artificial intelligence, made his debut at this year’s Tech Fair, demonstrating skills in face and voice recognition and even busting a few dance moves. Similar to Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home, Jibo, a friendly, continually-learning social robot, takes artificial intelligence up a notch with the capability of recognizing up to 16 family and friends, performing customized services with calendar, commutes, home security, medical needs, music and more.
Those in the market to learn about “green vehicles” visited the electric vehicle exhibit outside in the mall, where Tesla’s hot new sports car and the award-winning Chevy Bolt were on display. Participants could sit in the driver seat, handle the controls and take note of how electric vehicles not only help the environment but in many ways help the pocketbook.
“Ask the Expert” tables were manned by experts in all fields, including Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from local high schools, who offered one-on-one consultations on any subject ranging from smart phones to smart homes to e-health and more.
A session on QR codes led by tech entrepreneur Ryan Kussner demonstrated how to scan barcodes with your smartphone, also revealing the newest iPhones with OS 11 have the QR reader already built into the camera. KWIZFUN, an especially entertaining session, featured the popular team trivia game. Available as a free download for Apple and Android devices, players tested their trivia skills with some hilarious results.
“We like to mix what is useful today with what’s fun and makes practical life better with future-looking, hot-off-the-press technologies to keep us all active and engaged,” says executive director Valanciute.
Formerly based in Mission Valley, Oasis Lifelong Learning Center’s new location in the Grossmont mall boasts a Wellness Center, computer labs, lecture hall, and art studio, and throughout the year is a hub for innovative learning experiences in far-ranging subject areas for older adult learners. We can look forward to a Tech Fair next year, but in the meantime, if you have a hankering to upgrade your technology quotient, check out Oasis’ schedule of classes at www.sandiegooasis.org.