Otronicon Showcases UCF’s Avatars

Otronicon-TableGoing strong for 10 years, Otronicon is a premier technology event held in January in Orlando, FL. Vendors aim to show interested young scientists how people will live, learn, work and play in the years to come, showcasing video games, simulation and other technology – most of which is made in Orlando.

The event promotes the idea of “made in Orlando, played in Orlando” giving people the chance to interact with the creative professionals that made the games we enjoy today.

A team of UCF students was put together to demonstrate and showcase their work. The students displayed a computer-simulation program with avatars that they hope will allow children with social anxiety to overcome their fears. This software was developed with the help of a grant awarded to Dr. Deborah Beidel in 2012.  Click here to read about Dr. Beidel’s research.

The avatars are currently used as a way for children with Social Anxiety Disorder to practice social skills that are discussed with their individual clinician. They found however, that the avatars are limited in terms of what they can say in response to children. Before they are able to develop a language for the avatars, the team needs to know what children will likely say. This is one of the main reasons the team took the avatars to Otronicon – so they could help develop the language for the avatars as they watched the children interact with them.

“It was empowering to see so many children interested in what technology can be used for, aside from video games,” said graduate student Thien-An Le. “We had over 200 children stop by our table and speak with our avatars, which was more than we could have imagined, and it was just so exciting to see how kids and parents were intrigued about our avatars.”

At the five day Otronicon event, there were a total of 10 UCF representatives from the psychology department.  The team consisted of doctoral students, undergraduate research assistants and staff members. Doctoral students from Drs. Beidel, Neer and Bowers lab included Thien-An Le, Jeremy Stout, Benson Munyan, Michael Gramlich, Madeline Marks, and Ben Trachik. Undergraduate research assistants Aaron Necaise, Jessica McCoy, and Jacquelyn Hyatt and staff member Theresa Trombly were also team members.


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