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article imageVirtual Reality Developers Gain Recognition at The Proto Awards Special

By Matt Terndrup     Sep 27, 2014 in Technology
Los Angeles - The 1st ever Virtual Reality awards ceremony was held in Los Angeles, California and showcased upcoming content that will surely change the world.
In March of 2014, Facebook acquired a virtual reality company called Oculus Rift for $2 billion dollars after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $2.4 million for a Head Mounted Display (HMD) that would allow users to immersive themselves into computer generated experiences. Since then, the virtual reality developer community has exploded like a wild fire into the world of games, film, medical evaluations, and many other unique areas of expertise sparking the world’s 1st ever awards ceremony for virtual reality content to be organized in the Greater Los Angeles area.
The Proto Awards, as it is called, was held at the legendary Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California which was the location that the inaugural Academy Awards was hosted at. It was organized by a meetup group known as VRLA and attracted a crowd of roughly three hundred, mostly male, individuals into the Blossom Room of the Hotel where influential members of the VR community finally intermingled amongst each other.
The night was hosted by Thomas Middleditch who is best known as the lead actor in the HBO series ‘Silicon Valley’ where he plays a geeky startup entrepreneur, which is jokingly much like the roles that the people at the event play in real life. Throughout the ceremonies, he had the audience laughing in stitches along the way.
As the ceremonies progressed, Jonnie Ross, one of the founders of VRLA, got on the stage and gave an impassioned speech about how the VR movement is going to change the world. He related the rise of VR to the growth of the Homebrew Computer Club from back in the phone phreaking/hacking days of the mid 1970’s. He asked whether or not those people would have realized that they were writing the future. “At best, they would have laughed at the question.” Jonnie stated. “But we know now, that with the visions and imaginations of people like Jobs and Wozniak, that ultimately an entire revolution was being launched.” This was spot on. The VR revolution is indeed following similar trends of how the Homebrew Computer Club began. Like Jonnie said, “It’s going to change the the personal computer has changed the world, like film has changed the world, like the web changed the world.” What the developers are doing with it, as Jonnie mentioned, “has already started changing the world; the way we think about ourselves, the way we think about sharing, what we want our future world to look like. VR has given us hope that we might help shape that future.
We now get to live out our dreams, no matter how extreme, and can share them with others. He joked later that those dreams will all be shared together...“about pornography!” which drew a fantastic response from the audience.
Jonnie Ross is seen here giving a speech about how Virtual Reality will change the world
Jonnie Ross is seen here giving a speech about how Virtual Reality will change the world
Awards were given out to the hard working Indie developers who have put a lot of time, effort, and money who are risking their careers to create amazing virtual reality content. Honorees were recognized in front of all their peers. Among the notable winners was company called TiltBrush that lets people paint in 3D while wearing an Oculus Rift which is sure to change how people create works of art in the near future.
Another developer who received the Proto Award for Best Gameplay was E McNeill who developed a cyberpunk hacking game called Darknet that will be released into the upcoming Oculus Platform this fall.
The overall winner of the ceremony was a local company called Survios who developed a standing experience called “Zombies on the Holodeck” which allows users to fight against hordes of undead people. Their founders James Iliff and Nathan Burba worked in the same research lab at USC were Palmer Luckey spun out of before creating Oculus.
The highlight of the ceremony though was watching a video that was put together in response to Douglas Trumbull winning the “Founders Award.” It showed his interests beginning with old school cinerama. Later, Douglas worked in 70 millimeter giant screen movie as an illustrator for a 360 dome screen experience called “To the Moon and Beyond” at the New York World’s Fair in 1963. It was seen by legendary director Stanley Kubrick and accomplished author Arthur C. Clark confirming their belief that they could produce what Stanley called “the world’s first, good science fiction movie.” That movie that was produced was the epic classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This shows that the foundation of virtual reality has been laid down by pioneers like Trumbull and Kubrick many years earlier.
Trumbull also worked on a sci-fi thriller called “Brainstorm” that depicted a group of computer scientists who developed a revolutionary software interface that could record sensations from the brain. In the film, one of the team members had sex while wearing the device and shared the tape with his colleagues. The video was then spliced into a stream of continuous orgasm data, now known as an animated GIF, which crashed the system. The story goes on to show one person within the group being pressured by financial backers to deploy their machine into the military. The parallels between this movie and what is happening in real life around virtual reality are uncanny. Virtual reality porn is obviously going to be a huge market in the future, and already there are talks of how the military is going to use similar technologies.
Douglas Trumbull wears an VFX1 headset during his acceptance video at the Proto Awards
Douglas Trumbull wears an VFX1 headset during his acceptance video at the Proto Awards
Although there was a bit of grumbling in the crowd about whether or not some people should have won certain awards, what mattered the most was that developers in this industry were finally getting recognized for their hard work. Those who did win, and those were nominated, will be able to attract more press coverage and get more people to try out their content. This type of recognition is critical in order for virtual reality to take off. Consumers need high quality experiences, and the Proto Awards helped show the world who they thought the top performers in the VR industry are so far.
The full list of the winners can be found on The Proto Awards website.
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