Orlando tech targets growing VR and AR field at Florida Simulation Summit and VRARA event

Come meet us at the VR/AR Global Summit Nov 1-2

By Alexander Soderstrom – Staff writer, Orlando Business Journal

When Dan Ayoub addressed a ballroom full of people at the Florida Simulation Summit on Sept. 26, he acknowledged the flaw of his delivery method: a verbal speech aided by a slideshow. 

“This is the worst way for anyone to learn anything,” said Ayoub, general manager of education for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and keynote speaker at this year’s iteration of the annual Orlando summit.

Ayoub shared his experiences working on Microsoft’s push to put augmented and virtual reality — known as AR and VR — programs in classrooms and training programs. Independent studies show the use of AR and VR leads to more effective learning, Ayoub said. 

AR and VR were the themes of this year’s Florida Simulation Summit, an event which brings together academic, business and military leaders involved in the modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) industry. AR and VR are predicted to become a $571 billion industry by 2025, according to Allied Market Research, and Central Florida businesses are well-positioned to act as major players in the field, which locally is a $6 billion industry.

The region’s MS&T industry has risen to prominence on the back of Central Florida Research Park. The campus, adjacent the University of Central Florida, serves as the center of simulation operations for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy, as well as the headquarters of multiple private companies. Many local MS&T companies already create AR and VR products.

During the summit, CEOs, researchers and industry experts shared the capabilities of AR and VR, from pairing with artificial intelligence to train autonomous vehicles to training surgeons how to operate in a virtual setting before allowing them to operate on a human. 

The theme of the summit reflects a recent push in the Orlando area to increase the focus on AR and VR. John Cunningham, chief revenue officer of Orlando-based modeling and simulation firm DiSTI Corp., launched a Central Florida chapter of the VR/AR Association, and the association held its second event the night before the Simulation Summit. The group's purpose is to provide exposure and organization for the area’s AR and VR companies, Cunningham told Orlando Business Journal.

“The idea here is we’re going to start putting Central Florida on the map — the global map — as a hub for VR/AR expertise,” said Cunningham, who serves as president of the local chapter. 

The summit explored AR and VR applications in diverse fields such as education, gaming and health care, but Central Florida’s MS&T industry has predominantly been tied to defense due to the close proximity of military simulation operations. But it's a good thing, since military contracts can give MS&T companies a source of funding when venture capital is hard to come by, Cunningham said. The challenge, he said, is when companies make the transition to commercial industries and must commercialize their products. 

The Simulation Summit has touched on MS&T topics from big data to health simulation in its five years of operation. The event is hosted by the National Center for Simulation, Orange County and the Orlando Economic Partnership. National Center for Simulation President and CEO George Cheros said this year’s summit brought on of the best turnouts, with an estimated attendance of least 400 people.