Disney World and co. might be what most of us associate with Orlando, but what you don’t often realize is how the technology pioneered by all those theme parks – together with the region’s strong military and space exploration tradition – have turned this friendly town into the “simulation capital of the world.”There's more to Orlando than the theme parks, including a booming tech scene Click To Tweet
Given the VR renaissance we’re experiencing at the moment, that accolade just became a whole lot more interesting, which is why when Tech Trends was invited by the Orlando Economic Development Commission (OEDC) to check out the city’s booming tech scene we were intrigued enough to pack our bags and head over to sunny Florida (the fact it was snowing in the UK was just a bonus).A lot of Orlando companies are pushing the envelope in VR and AR Click To Tweet
But while the weather predictably lived up to its promise, the tech scene actually surpassed out expectations. We met with a huge range of companies pushing the envelope in VR, gaming and simulation from all possible directions. We were hosted by giant multinational companies such as EA games (which has its second largest office in the city) and AMD – who are developing the next generation of Graphics Processors that will enable the consumer VR revolution to scale – as well as start-ups building giant 3D theme park rides, or using Augmented Reality to enhance online retail or education experiences. We met some awesome entrepreneurs and had a blast at a space-themed Nerd Nite There was certainly a lot more to the Orlando tech scene than we had first expected to find.
— CarlosCarbonell (@CarlosCarbonell) January 13, 2017
Orlando is also leveraging its gaming and simulation talent pool and ecosystem to carve out a niche for itself as one of the major centers for education in those emerging areas. Simulation technology is already being applied across the board in medical research, education and rehabilitation, as we’ve had the chance to see when visiting the Veteran’s Hospital and Anatomy school at UCF’s “Medical City.” But there are also a number of fast-growing universities and colleges such as Full Sail, Orange Technical College and UCF Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) which now have dedicated courses and impressive facilities to teach the skillsets required to develop Virtual Reality technology.The Otronicon expo has grown steadily for the past decade Click To Tweet
One of the highlights of our visit, which showcased all this diversity under one roof was Otronicon an interactive technology expo that aims to get people excited about STEM by experiencing it hands-on. The family-friendly event started over a decade ago and grew steadily to the point where the 2017 edition boasted exhibitors such as Lockheed Martin, NASA, Microsoft and Disney alongside small start-ups using AR and VR technologies in health and education as well as the gaming and entertainment fields.From surgeon robots to zombie boxing, military simulations to game jams, Orlando showed us a good time Click To Tweet
From surgeon robots to zombie boxing, military simulations to game jams, we had a fun time exploring some of the most exciting innovations that Orlando has to offer, and you can get a flavour of what we’ve been up to in the gallery below.
Do watch this space for more deep dives into the trends, companies and innovations emerging from the vibrant Orlando ecosystem, but in the meantime we will be doing some swimming with Manatees before eagerly returning to British January weather.Orlando is leveraging its talent pool to become a VR education hub Click To Tweet
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.