EDITORIAL: Disney exec a good barometer for Florida Simulation Summit’s impact on Orlando tech

I remember when I first heard of the Florida Simulation Summit all the way back in 2015, B.C. – that is, “Before COVID.”

As a journalist, of course, my first order of business was to dig through the agenda, looking for any newsworthy discussion.

The agenda had a handful of notable speakers, of course. Orlando is a pretty good source of technology experts in so many fields.

But one speaker, in particular, caught my eye.

The story that I ended up focusing on came, well, into focus when I saw the keynote speaker, Walt Disney World’s Michael Tschanz.

Now, to be clear, efforts to reach Tschanz before the event proved useless, as the famously tight-lipped House of Mouse rebuked several outreach efforts.

No big deal, though.

As a tech reporter, I was on the list of people that Orange County wanted at the event.

Still, it would have been nice to put together an article in advance … but I digress.

Tschanz was fantastic at the inaugural event.

His walkthrough of how simulation played a role in something as seemingly banal as how lines form at the theme parks was more fascinating than I had anticipated.

At the time, I thought the Florida Simulation Summit could become one of the region’s more influential events.

My opinion on that has not changed, despite a pandemic-driven lull in the event.

In particular, I loved that Disney had jumped into Orlando’s tech community, feet first.

We, as a tech community, thrive when we can show our full potential, not just small companies innovating but the behemoths who have innovated here for decades.

This year, once again, I watched Tschanz on stage except, this time, he had some guests.

Tschanz moderated a panel at the Florida Simulation Summit that included some heavy hitters in the world of simulation.

Lockheed Martin.



The developer of the Unreal Engine, Epic Games.

For a locally organized event, that’s an incredible roster that speaks to the role Orlando could play in this new technology world.

Central Florida has been all-in on so many emerging technologies since long before they became the hype target du jour. It’s one reason I quickly got over my skepticism of its claim to be “The MetaCenter.”

Tschanz expertly led the discussion and it was impressive to note how his role in this event has changed over the last eight years.

Guest to facilitator.

Speaker to, well, facilitator.

As for the event itself, hundreds of professionals were treated to a mini-reset of the simulation industry.

Perhaps an exclamation point on the afternoon’s event – one that even more strongly illustrated the region’s potential – was a tour of the new 37,350-square-foot Brightline train station in Terminal C of Orlando International Airport.

Service, of course, is expected to start there by the end of the year.

All in all, the summit had its flaws, of course.

However, it was an important moment in what I hope becomes a consistent drumbeat of the tech community’s breadth in Orlando.

Perhaps next year we can have a panel that pairs Unity and Unreal on the same stage, with both significant companies sharing why they have chosen to do some work in Orlando.

That would be a fine reward for those who have followed this summit year after year.