Otronicon at the Orlando Science Center January 14-17 bills itself as “Orlando’s biggest interactive technology expo!” If you don’t count the annual joint military/industry simulation to-do in early December, it probably is.

Anyway, that other conference, I/ITSEC (just say “it-sec”), is pretty much just for adults, although plenty of youth get to tour the exhibits on the final day.

Otronicon is a video game festival designed to be pretty much just for the kids. But plenty of adults stop by during the four-day show for an eye-popping glance at the future of interactive technology. In fact, grown-ups have shown so much interest in the event that the Science Center will include an after-hours segment just for big people.

IST has been “stopping by” since the Science Center first staged the expo in 2006. The event’s initial objective, to show how computer simulation in the form of video games is changing entertainment, art, education, business and even military training, fits right in with work underway in several of IST’s simulation research labs.

The institute over the years has built a considerable body of knowledge about entertainment and information retention. Their work has shown how simulation can engage learners and build lasting memories much more effectively than traditional learning techniques.

Otronicon is a perfect venue, to test its research with people who are not part of the development team, says Eileen Smith, director of IST’s E2i Creative Studio. Public testing helps us know how well we are communicating the messages intended, she says.

E2i Creative Studio is brining two “games,” one about pain management (a laptop experience) and a table-top-based augmented reality musical game, Muse(IQ)al Cubes.

Another IST lab, which focuses on mobile computing, will feature their SuperNutrition and Sports Pulse games. A third lab returns with its radio-controlled vehicle maze race, newly improved this year with a larger maze and faster scoring.

IST has found that the expo is an excellent opportunity for degree-seeking students to discuss their work on real projects. These researchers in training “need to talk to the public about their work and findings,” says Smith. A public expo such as Otronicon provides valuable first-hand feedback experiences.

The annual Science Center show also exposes young people – high school age and below – to careers in science. “Every year we receive many questions from middle and high school age youth and their parents about the opportunities at UCF for research and academic study,” says Smith.