Otronicon began in 2006 as an effort to “explore the science, art, technology, careers and fun behind video games, simulation and digital media.” As a partner, Team Orlando joined the Orlando Science Center’s effort to recognize and celebrate the impact that digital technologies have made in nearly every aspect of our lives.
As the largest event hosted by the Orlando Science Center, this annual event attracts both big kids and little kids, and gives attendees a “real” hands-on look at a wide range of video games, interactive technology and virtual reality. And this year, several Team Orlando partners participated in the 10th annual Otronicon.
“In collaboration with the University of Central Florida’s ACTIVE lab, the ARL-HRED STTC’s booth featured several videos showcasing different content and an interactive robotics demo,” explained Irwin Hudson, Science and Technology Manager, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Orlando.
One video showcased funded research work under the ARL Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA) program, and their own Dr. Daniel Barber controlling the Boston Dynamics Bigdog platform using hardware/software created by their lab.
In the video, Dr. Barber is shown wearing a gesture control device (glove) which transmits his commands to the robot wirelessly. The robot is issued various commands of which it responds to including sit, stand, and halt among others.
“Our lab’s focus with this research effort is to identify the plausibility of gesture-based control of robots in the purview of human-robot teams,” Hudson said.
They also had videos that included STEM-related events endorsed and attended by the lab, like past Otronicon events, grade school robotics competitions, like Florida Lego League, and collegiate level robotics competitions including participation by the hometown university, UCF and their Robotics Club.
“This video shows the lab’s dedication to STEM-related education and our various outreach efforts to help launch students into STEM related fields,” Hudson said. “The Robotics Club at UCF is sponsored by our lab and is a UCF student run organization of about 30 interdisciplinary student volunteers. The goal of the club is to facilitate education through construction of fully autonomous robotic platforms ranging from underwater to ground vehicles.
Rounding out their booth, they also included the JRMBot Autonomous/Multi-Robot Swarm Capabilities, which is similar to the Bigdog RCTA research but this video demonstrated multiple JRMBot employing autonomous swarm behavior, and an interactive demo which allowed attendees to control a single JRMBot from an operator’s perspective around a course of orange cones.
“Our research aims to aid with incorporation of platforms with greater autonomy that may only require directions or instructions rather than fulltime supervision,” Hudson explained. “These kinds of robots have the benefit of being far more effective in a squad or team environment.
There were many UCF groups who helped to make Otronicon a success this year, including the UCF Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, College of Psychology, the School of Visual Arts and Design, and UCF’s E2i Creative Studio.
“I’m very proud to say that my lab is the only UCF entity that has been involved since Otronicon v1, but every year, more have been joining,” said Eileen Smith, E2i’s Creative Studio Director. “It’s a great way for them to get involved, and the Office of Research matches internal UCF funds that get committed to the Science Center for Otronicon so it’s a great partnership.”
Smith said that Otronicon is a great way to let the regional Central Florida community know about the breadth and depth of research happening at UCF, and also a great way to let the community playtest, review and comment on the types of research, like Modeling and Simulation, that are jewels of the Central Florida economy.
“E2i Creative Studio participates in Otronicon each year because of the ongoing relationship we have with the community and to ensure they know what exciting research is taking place at IST,” Smith said. “It gives them a chance to comment and prototype our new interactive learning experiences, and to connect the present and future workforce of Central Florida in exploring what’s next for our high technology industries and academia.”
Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) team members Dr. Elaine Raybourn, Dr. Damon Regan, and Robert Chadwick conducted an ongoing workshop at Otronicon, “Great Game Play Starts with Good Game Mechanics.” The workshop allowed participants to create their own level of a game in which a car has to travel across a city using maze-like roads while avoiding booby traps, roadblocks, and other obstacles designed to stump the players. Participants who designed the levels then play each other’s levels to explore what makes games engaging.
The workshop was an introduction to developing game logic and mechanics using the Sandbox, an instance of OSD’s Virtual World Framework.
“Our workshop participants had a blast editing a game level and playing each other’s designs,” Raybourn said. “Otronicon is a great way to expose kids to STEM-related careers, and get them to interact with developers. A few of our youngest workshop participants even had their own games in mind that they wanted to create. They came to the workshop to learn about applying game mechanics to other projects.”
This year, Program Manager Training Systems (PM TRASYS), featured their “Deployable Virtual Training Environment,” DVTE, a laptop-based training system used by the United States Marine Corps.
As part of the “real, hands-on” experience, Marines assisted attendees and explained about their simulated training, which uses Virtual Battlespace 3, and then gave users the opportunity to control a tactically-based, first-person shooter that includes use of Marine Corps weapons and vehicles.
Serious Games & Showcase Challenge gave Otronicon attendees the opportunity to play twelve of the top games featured at the 2014 International/Interservice Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
“Otronicon was the perfect venue to showcase finalists and winners from the 2014 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge,” said 2015 IPT Chair, Lisa Scott Holt, Ph.D. “Otronicon attendees, eager to see state-of-the-art technologies, got to experience firsthand how gaming mechanics and game technology can be used to create engaging and effective instruction.”
“I hope that continued exposure to Serious Games not only encourages educators to leverage the power of games, but also inspires today’s youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Holt said.
Visit Otronicon for more information.