By Kate Finkel, Staff Writer


Community business leaders participated in “The Future of Immersive Technology/Impact to CFL,” a panel discussion at the VRARA Central Florida Immersive Technology Summit 2024, April 18.


Their comments focused on new immersive technologies that are creating new opportunities for economic growth in Central Florida. Immersive technology, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), has been rapidly evolving and offering unique experiences across various industries such as gaming, entertainment, education, healthcare, and tourism.


“We have a solid base of engagement in the 3D development and gaming community, but there is a lot of infrastructure that has to go behind that,” said Bill Godfrey, CEO of C3 Pathways. “As the community begins to expand, we will start to see a bigger workforce drawn to Central Florida in those other areas and create the complete package. There will be quite a bit of opportunity for economic development.”


As Central Florida has grown, it has evolved into a hub for defense, space, hospitality, tourism, education, and entertainment. Industries can collaborate to address future needs, with education playing a crucial role.


“Students are learning and gaining hands-on experience at the heart of innovation,” said Dave Franko, vice president of academic affairs at Full Sail University. “Immersive technology in education offers new learning methods, fostering real-time collaborations, opening doors to exciting opportunities for students and paving the way for future growth.”


Godfrey noted that the increased accessibility of tools like VR and AR have enabled innovators to explore new ways to collaborate and create immersive experiences, which makes collaborations and new business ventures more achievable than ever before.


“This accessibility fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, driving economic growth and shaping the future of Central Florida’s economy,” Godfrey said.


Lowering barriers of entry is key to the future of the technology ecosystem, according to Neal Finkelstein, chief operating officer for the National Center for Simulation.


“You used to need substantial financial investments and infrastructure to build a simulation environment and get help with testing and verification,” Finkelstein said.


Finkelstein explained that the technology landscape’s evolution has lowered barriers to entry, making it easier for entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life. Today, starting a business in tech fields is easier due to lower costs and democratized access, which fosters a more diverse and innovative tech landscape.


Central Florida’s defense ecosystem represents a $7 billion annual investment in modeling, simulation, and training (MS&T) contracts, solidifying its reputation as the epicenter of the MS&T sector. Much of this funding supports simulation command centers for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. These commands enhance national defense by developing simulated training systems to improve warfighter readiness, which stimulates economic growth by providing job and subcontracting opportunities that reinforce Central Florida as a hub for innovation and technological advancement.

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