Orlando is known for theme parks and tourist attractions. Its thriving travel and tourism industry is responsible for an annual economic impact of $60 billion. Last year, the City Beautiful welcomed a record-breaking 62 million tourists.
However, there is much more to Orlando than the Mouse and the Boy Who Lived. In the shadow of tourism is the region’s second largest industry sector, technology. The city is cultivating a diverse technology scene, which results in a $14 billion economic impact.
With a new year comes new opportunities and the Orlando Science Center started 2016 off strong with its 11th annual convention held Jan. 15 to 18 showcasing the science, art and technology behind the ever-evolving digital media industry. Attendance numbers have not been released yet, but the event typically attracts thousands of visitors.
The Orlando Electronic Interactive Entertainment Convention, known as Otronicon, offers an inside look at innovation, design, gaming, virtual reality (VR), as well as state-of-the-art military and medical simulators that are not usually available to the public. The experience sparks interest for children and adults of all ages in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers through the appeal of video games, interactive technology and VR. The premiere technology event provides a glimpse into the future and the role interactive technology has in the way we live, learn, work and play— a vision that aligns well with future city developments such as the Creative Village.
Throughout the weekend, various high-profile speakers also hosted panel discussions and workshops to help guide potential STEM leaders along their career paths. This created an open dialogue on topics ranging from nanotechnology in VR and simulations to integrating VR in our brains to women in STEM fields.
Dynamic events like Otronicon focus on nourishing homegrown strengths. With the concept of “made in Orlando, played in Orlando,” Otronicon invests in the future STEM talent of tomorrow and helps connect them with creative industry professionals, career opportunities and technology in their own backyard.
Florida Hospital, a neighbor to the OSC, presented an in-depth look at how simulation technology is being used to create better health-care professionals. Its Medical Sim City area encouraged visitors to test their surgical skills on high-tech tools such as the da Vinci Xi surgical robot and Stryker Brain Mapping system.
The Indie Game Developers Showcase spotlighted gaming projects developed by dozens of entrepreneurs changing the Orlando tech landscape.
At “Storytelling through Technology,” Disney’s Imagineers gave a behind-the-scenes look at the magic involved with their animatronics and special effects, featuring an original Tiki Room Barker Bird animatronic, 3D printing creations and small-scale versions of a Star Tours vehicle and The Haunted Mansion’s famous Pepper’s Ghost effect.
Several local game designers took on Otronicon’s Game Jam challenge to create a new game in just 30 hours of creative design and implementation using Makey Makey, an invention kit that allows users to connect everyday objects such as a banana or playdough to computer programs. This year, game jammers were on the floor and engaged with visitors during the development process to test their games and answer questions.
Other Central Florida organizations that participated in the four-day event include (but not limited to) DAVE School, EA SPORTS, Lockheed Martin, Melrose Center at Orange County Library System, NASA and the University of Central Florida.