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Science or Magic? A Day at Otronicon

On January 17th, the 9th Annual Otronicon showcased the groundbreaking inventions that may just be the next big thing in technology.

Orlando Science Center? Chances are that if you grew up in Orlando, you have probably been there at least once. But, if you are like me, it might have been a solid ten years since your last visit. If that is the case, you are missing out.

January 17 – 19, the annual Otronicon took place at the Orlando Science Center. Otronicon is a celebration of the role that interactive technology plays in various aspects of our lives today. The Science Center had interactive technology available to test out on its second, third, and fourth floors at the event.

Otronicon had something for everyone. For those of you that like men in uniform, Otronicon showed off new technology for military training.  However, I could not figure out how to work it (that is, work the program, not work what my momma gave me); guess I should hold off any plans to enlist.

One of the most inspirational and exceptional parts of the evening was Ekso Bionics. Ekso skeletons are designed to enable the wearer to bear 200-pound loads without feeling the weight of the load at all. Currently being used for military and industrial applications, not only do these things look like they are from the future, but they behave like magic. They make the wearer more productive and efficient and greatly decrease the likelihood of on-the-job injuries. This is not actually anything new though. This particular system is in its sixth year; the first Ekso skeleton was built in 1966. Though they are being used, they are still few in number with just one hundred of them active in the United States today. Of these Ekso skeletons, Lockheed Martin built at least fifteen of them.

These Ekso skeletons are also being used for therapeutic purposes. I had the privilege of speaking with Sarah Anderson, a paraplegic who is also an Ekso ambassador. She is one of the many wheelchair-bound people that Ekso’s medical breakthroughs have benefitted, giving her the chance to walk again when it was thought all but impossible. Ekso skeletons of this variety are exclusively used in rehabilitation centers. I asked Sarah if it was her own suit, but she told me she does not get to use the suit at home. Sarah has been using the suit off and on for the past three years within rehabilitation centers. Sarah talked about her experience with the Ekso skeleton: “It’s been life changing, it gave me that opportunity to do something that they said I would never be able to do again, so it feels good to get up and walk.” Sarah has been a paraplegic for almost eleven years, after spending almost eight years not being able to “do anything.” Even if you are not “that into” technology, you cannot deny the inspiring nature of what these companies are doing.

On the fourth floor, video games took center stage. Reps from Disney and EA Sports were present. There was a system not yet on the market that captures all the movements of your face called Faceshift. It can be used in movies and production for realistic facial animation.

I will say this too — the Orlando Science Center knows how to throw a shindig: their cheese cubes were to die for.  One thing is for sure, I will not wait another ten years to visit the Orlando Science Center.

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