Otronicon, the annual four-day Orlando Science Center event celebrating technology, starts this Friday, Jan. 12. Disney fans will find plenty to inspire them, including new content themed around toys in anticipation of the opening of Walt Disney World’s Toy Story Land this summer.
“This year Walt Disney World will have a Virtual Reality experience that will allow guests to take a sneak peek into Toy Story Land. There will also be a demonstration of how toys inspired some of our attractions and the engineering behind them,” according the Disney representatives.
In addition to the Virtual Reality experience, there also will be an Augmented Reality experience in the Walt Disney World exhibit. For those not familiar with the terms, Virtual Reality is an entirely made up world whereas Augmented Reality adds some VR elements to the natural world, enhancing it but not creating it.
Although Disney has not revealed everything that will appear in its Otronicon booth, it does promise to have several interactive elements, including either a ride vehicle or a photo booth. For the last couple years, the exhibit has featured a car from the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom. Visitors were encouraged to sit in the stationery car and wear Virtual Reality goggles to experience a roller coaster simulation. No word yet on whether this exact experience is what visitors can look forward to.
Guests who have enjoyed Disney’s “Color and Play” station, where they can add color to favorite Disney characters and then see them come to life through the use of Augmented Reality technology, will be happy to know the exhibit is returning.
Disney’s Imagineers also will present “Engineering The Magic, a one-hour interactive demonstration at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “Every day this incredible team uses science to help tell the stories that transport Walt Disney World park and resort guests into some really exciting places. ‘Engineering the Magic’ is food for your brain as you discover the scientific principles that put the thrills, chills, and fun into the most magical place on Earth. Jump on board and discover the engineer in you.”
“Engineering the Magic” is a workshop with limited seating so it’s recommended that those planning to attend register in advance at the Clubhouse on Level 1 of the science center. There is a cost of $5 per workshop, and tickets to Otronicon are required to attend workshops.
Now in its thirteenth year, Otronicon has grown from a conference for video gamers to one that encompasses the many forms of technology that we use in our everyday lives. This year, an emphasis again has been placed on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. Many, if not most, of the exhibitors are local companies with a vested interest in the development of STEM programs and jobs in Orlando.
In addition, the focus on teaching kids how to create code for computers returns with an Hour of Code each day. This initiative introduces computer science to new learners through simple programming games and features popular characters. Plus, speaker Kyle Steele presents a talk Friday that focuses on “Learn Jelly, a system that helps elementary students learn deeper, improve reading comprehension and critical thinking skills and gain coding exposure through the process of animating stories based on content areas.”
Video games still make up a large part of the event, too. Families can take part in daily competitions hosted by Powder Keg Games; game designers can create experiences using the Cozmo robot in the UCF Game Jam Contest; and visitors can try a number of new and popular games. Otronicon 2018 also features state-of-the-art medical and military simulators from Florida Hospital for Children and Lockheed Martin, respectively.
Admission to Otronicon is $20.95 per day for adults; $18.95 per day for students and seniors; and $14.95 per day for children ages 3 to 11. Admission to Otronicon is free for Science Center members and children age 2 and younger. Hours for Otronicon are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. A separate ticket is required for Science Night Live featuring Otronicon! from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13.