Thursday, January 11, 2018

Buddy Dyer and Scott Maxwell ride into the Danger Zone.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer previewed the new immersive Flight Lab, while Challenging Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell in a Virtual Contest to be Top Gun at the Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803). The Mayor and Sentinel Columnist continued their decades-long video game rivalry. Since 2006, they have competed for dominance at the annual Otronicon. From Halo shootouts to Dance Dance Revolution, these two combatants have given their all in a bid for techno supremacy. The competition came days before the 13th annual Otronicon Tech Expo.

The high tech Flight Lab is located on the top floor of the Science Center in the Dino Digs area. I arrived a bit early to sketch the room, waiting for the contestants to arrive. One of the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality technology experts in the room noticed my John Henry crew jacket and he asked if I had worked at Disney. He had worked for 10 years at Universal so we shared a few war stories. He lamented that CAD technology has produced a generation of tech architects and artists who are content use homogeneous stock imagery. The life in hand crafted sketching is quickly becoming a lost art. Now that I am looking for work, it seems like Tech is all that exists in this Digital World.

The contestants were given a chance to try out the technology before their flight. They both put on Virtual Reality headsets which allowed them to look around their cockpits. "Maverick" (Dyer) glanced out his cockpit window to see "Ice Man" (Maxwell). They both took off the flight deck of the carrier and took to the sky. Each jet required a pilot and co-pilot so the tech experts helped in the co-pilot seats. With the test flights out of the way the pilots prepared for their head to head flights. Maverick got off the flight deck first with Ice Man flying in formation behind. This was not a dog fight but a simple test of speed and agility. Buddy Dyer took the title of "Top Gun."

Flight Lab will be premiering at this year's Otronicon. This new permanent exhibit uses real-world mission scenarios to teach standards-based concepts and to develop critical communication, decision-making, team building, and collaborative skills. Flight Lab is an immersive experience with 13 flight simulator stations to accommodate both a pilot and co-pilot. Oculus Rift head-mounted display units take participants right into the danger zone as they learn how to fly, navigate, communicate, and work as a team. Funding for the exhibit is provided by the Office of Naval Research.

Otronicon connects visitors with the creative professionals and technology that are turning Central Florida into a hub for innovation. It is a celebration of our community’s technology leaders, including the latest from Lockheed Martin, Walt Disney World Resort, Florida Hospital for Children, University of Central Florida as well as a cross section of our region’s top indie game developers and so much more. The 13th Annual Otronicon is January 12-15, 2018. The hours are 10 AM to 5 PM each day. Tickets are available online.
Adult ($20.95)
Senior ($18.95)
Student ($18.95)
Youth ($14.95)
Two and Under ($0.00)

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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