PREVIEW

Get your tech on with Otronicon at Orlando Science Center

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Otronicon is back and again filling Orlando Science Center with all manner of technology. Participants in the four-day event can check out a wide range of marvels, from playing music video game Rock Band onstage to seeing the daVinci robot, which is used in medical settings to perform surgery.

I talked with Jeff Stanford, vice president of communications, about what's new and what's returning to Otronicon, which begins Friday. Here are just a handful of the features I would like to explore.

•This year, there will be two Virtuspheres, kind of like enormous hamster balls made for humans equipped with virtual-reality helmets. In one, folks will venture through the chambers of the heart. The other will be a first-person shooter style, possibly pitting players against aliens, Stanford says.

•On the Otronicon uptick: robotics. Watch for the robot maze and for an underwater robot used by the U.S. Navy.

•For the first time, Walt Disney World will be a major player at Otronicon. It will be a free-flowing area with opportunities to meet Imagineers, Stanford says. They'll be talking about how they use digital media, animation, simulation, Audio-Animatronics and more to create theme-park experiences.

"They're going to explain how they use science and make the magic happen," Stanford says.

•Among the forums and workshops will be a panel about the development of video games.

"We're going to talk about different aspects of game development — the project management side of it, the artistic side of it, the technological side of it," Stanford says.

Corporate participants in the panel will include EA Sports, n-Space and ZeeGee Games, all of which are based in Central Florida.

•Laser shows are being planned for the event, but they won't be the ones shown last summer or the ones seen during the recent holiday season. "It's a laser show that will make fans of Otronicon happy," Stanford says.

•Lasers will be used in a recreational way with laser tag presented by Battlefield Live. The games will have a military-training feel and be held in 10-minute sessions on the terrace off the fourth floor of the science center. It's the infrared variety of weapon, so it will be running during daylight hours, too. (Note: Laser tag will be available on Saturday and Sunday only.)

•If all this sounds a little intense, there's a new place to escape — the Reboot Lounge. It will be equipped with high-definition televisions, social-media stations, funky furniture and classic arcade games.

"The Reboot Lounge is going to be a place where you can recharge and decompress," Stanford says.

The lounge also will be home to an art gallery with artwork inspired by video games or developed by digital tools.

•Otronicon's usual display of Apple computers through the years will be supplemented by a tribute to Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Inc.

Otronicon continues to emphasize the home-grown aspects of the technology industry, using a "Made in Orlando, played in Orlando" mantra.

"Here are the innovators in your own backyard. Here is the technology that was created in Central Florida that you enjoy," Stanford says.

"Disney is such a big part of what Orlando is," he says. "It's exciting for us for them to show us a peek behind the curtain to see how they create their experiences."

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477



Otronicon



Where: Orlando Science Center, 777 E. Princeton St., Orlando

When: 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday and Monday

Cost: Included in science-center admission — $17 general, $12 ages 3-11.

Phone: 407-514-2000

Online: Otronicon.org
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