The ninth annual Otronicon celebration of technology is now open at the Orlando Science Center, bringing together video game experiences, state-of-the-art medical and military simulators, workshops taught by industry professionals, and much more.
Once again this year, Disney is showing off some of its theme park prowess with a bigger-than-ever booth featuring demonstrations and simulations that include a behind-the-scenes peek at popular attractions like Star Tours, Test Track, Toy Story Midway Mania, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Video: Disney tech demos at Otronicon 2014
Disney’s exhibit, dubbed Disney Math Magic, is front-and-center on the 4th floor of the Science Center, with the goal of teaching Otronicon attendees a bit about the science behind theme park fun. The entire event focuses largely on the STEM program - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - to showcase how important these fields are to so many roles and jobs.
The Star Tours simulator demo shows how the Starspeeder 1000 ride vehicle creates a feeling of movement for riders without ever leaving a platform. Specifically, it’s called a Stewart platform, and though the small scale one on display at Otronicon isn’t configured exactly like the much larger real-life one, it gives the basics behind how computer-controlled motions make the ride vehicle bounce around in time with the projected video. The demo is even running an old ride sequence, alongside a computer screen showing the interface Imagineers use to help program the attraction.
There are several opportunities to get hands-on at Disney’s booth, including at a roller coaster simulation demo that shows off the dispatch and lift controls of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland, enabling Otronicon guests to “run” the attraction.
Familiar screens and controls from Test Track and Toy Story Mania show how Imagineers developed these interactive attraction portions before they were installed in the parks.
The robotics of an old Audio-Animatronics figure from Pirates of the Caribbean is also dusted off and on display at Otronicon, though not in motion.
An interactive quiz game lets attendees test knowledge of Disney engineering and trivia, geared toward kids to introduce technical information.
The whole event was launched last night by the mayors of Orlando and Orange County along with a gathering of VIPs from sponsors and technology-oriented companies.
Beyond Disney, the most impressive site at Otronicon 2014 is the showcasing of the incredible exoskeleton technology from Lockheed Martin and Ekso Bionics. Lockheed’s HULC suit helps dismounted warfighters carry heavy combat loads. But more impressively, Ekso Bionics’ suit allows those who are wheelchair-bound to walk again.
Microsoft and Sony are present at this year’s event with the latest in video game and home entertainment consoles, including the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well as Sony’s Personal 3D HDTV Viewer, which believably recreates a big screen 3D viewing experience behind the privacy of a personal headset. It’s $1,000 in the market, so this is a great opportunity to test drive one without shelling out the big bucks. Microsoft is also raffling off an Xbox One system all four days of Otronicon for guests to win.
There are plenty of flight and military simulators to get immersed in the action of battle.
Other notable exhibits include wearable technology like Google Glass, a two-button fighting game that’s simple yet surprisingly fun, realistic modeling and facial expressions used in EA Sports games, and Medical Sim City from Florida Hospital enabling guests to go hands-on with the same multimillion dollar technology that doctors use — medical degree not required.
Adults visiting Otronicon this weekend can enjoy special 18+ entertainment Friday and Saturday evenings in the Nerdy Lounge, include a Video Game Burlesque show by Skill Focus, a cash bar, geek trivia, and live music with the band A Brilliant Lie on Saturday night only.
And no gaming event would be complete without a retro arcade featuring classic standup and pinball games.
Admission to Otronicon is $19 for adults and $13 for youth (ages 3-11). Tickets also include access to the new traveling exhibit “Zoom Into Nano,” giant screen and 3-D educational films, one Hollywood feature-length film, and live programming. Science Center members can experience Otronicon for free.
Otronicon is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 and Monday, Jan. 20.
For more information, visit www.otronicon.org.
More photos from Otronicon 2014: