When Stanford started using state-of-the-art virtual reality technology to train its players, no one was more excited than offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren.
He was intrigued as to how it could help his players, to be sure. But he was also excited to experience and use a new piece of technology for himself.
Because for as high tech as so many college football staffs have become, there might not be a bigger techie in all of college football than Silicon Valley’s own Bloomgren.
His backpack? It’s typically carrying at least six pieces of technology ranging from Bluetooth speakers and projectors to iPads and portable wifi docks. And that’s not counting what might be on his body -- his Microsoft Band fitness watch, his Bluetooth or Jerry Harvey custom-molded earphones.
Google Glass? He bought into that. Even wore it to some news conferences.
And SkyMall magazine, that airline catalog that features electronics with unique (and sometimes seemingly pointless) purposes? He was its biggest fan.
“I know SkyMall went out of business and has now come back in a smaller version,” Bloomgren said. “But I think I personally helped keep SkyMall alive for an extra year. I was a marketer’s dream when I sat down on the planes and would look at that. ... I bought a lot of things out of there.”
And now Bloomgren can admit that maybe the floating speaker for his hot tub (which he bought out of SkyMall) might not have been the soundest purchase, but the technology misses of his past have done nothing to dissuade him from the next gadget purchase he eventually makes.
Bloomgren traces his tech love to his childhood. Like other kids, he had the typical kind of technologies -- Nintendo video game consoles and boom boxes. But, his parents also bought him a RadioShack Electronics Lab 101 Kit, an educational toy that allowed Bloomgren to explore 101 different pieces of technology in a single box.
“I liked taking things apart,” Bloomgren said. “You could build all these different things from the set. You could actually make a light bulb light up. You could make a speaker play a note.”
He was hooked.
His garage is now full of boxes of technology that have either become obsolete or pieces that he’s hoping will one day become useful again. But, like many people, Bloomgren has turned to his phone to now take care of almost everything.
“Our iPhones can now do everything that most of the gadgets I’ve bought in the past 10 years were designed to do,” Bloomgren said.
Like everyone else, Bloomgren can order a cab or food delivery from his phone. He can stay in touch with family and recruits. But he also uses his iPhone to control the thermostat (TC 2.0), open and close his garage door (Chamberlain) and see who might be at his front door (Ring).
But one of his favorite pieces of technology right now is his “Beam,” a piece of technology that allows Bloomgren and his family to feel like he’s home in Palo Alto, even when he’s not.
The Beam is like a full-time FaceTime screen attached to a rolling base. He can call in from anywhere in the country and his face will automatically pop up on the screen at his home, whether his family is home or not. It allows him to sit in for family dinners when he’s in Florida or watch movies with his sons when he’s in Georgia.
He also admits that he uses it to mess with his wife sometimes, “waiting” at the front door for her when she gets home so that the first thing she sees when she walks in the house is his face on a robot body. (Shockingly, this was not purchased out of SkyMall.)
But, the one piece of tech he just can’t be without is his iPhone, which, he says “has allowed me to simplify my life and my backpack.”
And when he’s out and runs in to Apple, Google or Facebook employees (which happens fairly often in Silicon Valley), he often tries to see what the tech companies might have coming down the pipe for gadget nerds like him.
He has yet to get any employee to divulge anything too interesting, but those companies can rest assured that -- early warning or not -- Bloomgren will be near the front of the line to purchase whatever their new product might be. And they’ll get bonus points if it fits in his backpack.