The third international VR Awards ceremony was held last Monday in London. The event, hosted by AIXR, aims to recognize outstanding achievements in VR technology. Here, we’ll take a look at AIXR, as well as this year’s big winners and a few runners-up.
What Is AIXR?
AIXR – “The Academy of International Extended Reality” – is an independent non-profit dedicated to promoting MR, AR, and VR tech.
For the last three years, they have done this through their VR Awards. They also do it by creating networks within the XR community, supporting startups, and offering student programs. Their site also posts educational and informative articles relating to the world of MR, AR, and VR technology.
The VR Awards recognize innovations in VR technology through twelve categories. Anybody can make nominations, which are then judged by a massive panel.
This year’s 70+ person judging panel included academic professors and researchers as well as representatives from Google, HTC, HP, Deloitte, NVIDIA, Apache, and others.
VR Lifetime Achievement
The highest award that AIXR gives is The Accenture VR Lifetime Achievement Award. This is the first year that the award has been given and it went to John Carmack.
Carmack is a computer programmer best known for his work on the Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein video games.
VR Hardware of the Year
This Year’s VR Hardware of the Year Award went to the Oculus Quest. The Oculus Rift S was also nominated for the award. The original Oculus Rift won the first VR Headset of the Year Award (not its own category this year) in 2017. That same year, Oculus Touch won VR Hardware of the Year.
Quest is the first all-in-one model by Oculus, making it surprising that it beat out the Rift S. As a console-based VR headset, the Rift has higher computing power and is less limited by storage.
The only other headset in the category was HP’s Reverb. The Reverb promises better VR tech than other headsets at an affordable cost. Even the “Pro” edition comes in at less than $700. However, the headset has less than stellar user reviews.
VR Game of the Year
VR Game of the Year went to A Fisherman’s Tale by Innerspace VR, Vertigo Games, and ARTE France. The twisted puzzle adventure game beat out more recognizable titles including ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission, Vacation Simulator, and Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs.
Last year’s AIXR VR Game of the Year award winners was the much-acclaimed The Gallery – Episode 2: Heart of the Emberstone.
VR Experience of the Year
VR Experience of the Year went home with another Oculus title, Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. The interactive program explores the classic character’s backstory with users playing as the Sith Lord himself.
The experience now sits in the hall of fame with Google Tilt Brush, which won the category in 2017.
VR Film of the Year
VR Film of the Year went to Wolves in the Walls: It’s All Over. This offered little surprise. The feature is the second and final installation of a VR-based adaptation of the work by award-winning author Neil Gaiman. The story follows 8-year-old Lucy as she uncovers mysteries about her house. Created by Fable and Oculus and powered by Unreal Engine, the film has been to Tribeca, the Chicago Film Festival and the Emmys.
To win the category, Wolves in the Walls was against other VR films including Traveling While Black, Crow: The Legend, and Lucid. The VR documentary and fellow Emmy nominee explores the experiences of African Americans throughout American history.
While many aren’t particularly excited about VR technology in marketing, marketing is in fact how many people experience VR tech for the first time. As a result, it does make sense that AIXR has a category for VR Marketing.
This year’s winner was Oasis Pocket Adventure: The Infruinite Slide. Created for the French soft drink company Oasis, the game features one of the company’s classic fruit-characters surfing on a waterslide.
Most of the competition came from automotive companies, who often use VR technology to showcase and market vehicles and options. Every year that’s the case but an automotive VR experience has yet to win the category. Last year Coco VR won and the year before that Ikea VR took the prize.
Rising VR Company
Another highly anticipated category was Rising VR Company of the Year. The category was taken by Fable Studio, one of the creators of Wolves in the Walls.
I hope to see more from the studio but remain cautious. Both of the previous winners in this category, Neurogaming Limited and LiveLike aren’t exactly huge names today.
Innovative VR Company
The next category is relatively new, as this is only the second year that AIXR has given it. The Innovative VR Company of the Year is this year going to Emblematic Group. Emblematic is involved in using MR, AR, and VR tech to create immersive experiences for education and entertainment. Founded in 2007, the company first turned heads with its 2012 Hunger in LA experience. One of the first VR documentaries, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that year.
Like Fable, Emblematic should be careful not to rest on their laurels. Last year, Pixvana lost the title to Ultrahaptics. While the field of haptics is exciting and promising, few today would recognize the name “Ultrahaptics” before “Pixvana.”
VR Education and Training
VR tech isn’t all fun and games. It’s often used in industry for advanced training simulations. That’s why AIXR recognizes VR Education and Training as one of its categories.
This year the prize went to Working at Height by Vodafone and Make Real. The experience allows users to go through a simulated task performed by telecommunications employees who need to service towers. This dangerous and thankless job is what keeps our mobile phones and data networks working.
Make Real uses VR technology for tools and entertainment. Two of their projects were nominated for the same category in 2017 but lost to Industrial Training International’s Crane Simulator. The company had no nominations in 2018 but returned this year with three nominations including one for Innovative VR Company of the Year and one for VR Enterprise Solution of the Year.
VR in Healthcare
VR tech isn’t just changing industry, it’s also revolutionizing healthcare. Every year that AIXR has had the VR Awards, they have had a category for VR in Healthcare.
This year, the prize went to Fundamental Surgery. Calling itself “the flight simulator for surgeons”, the company uses advanced graphics and haptics to train health providers in rare and advanced procedures.
Out-of-Home VR Experience
We often think of VR happening in our homes or workplaces but sometimes it needs to take place in a specialized environment. Thus the Out-of-Home VR Entertainment category.
This year’s winner is War Remains by MWM Immersive and Flight School Studio. Another Tribeca Film Festival debut, War Remains transports users to the Western Front of World War I.
Flight School Studio had no nominations in 2017 but came out of the woodwork last year with four nominations and one win. Their VR game, Manifest 99, took VR experience of the year. They were also nominated for VR Marketing, Rising VR Company, and VR Social Impact.
VR Social Impact
Only a category for the last two years, the VR Social Impact Award recognizes VR experiences that change the way that we think about the world around us.
This year’s winner was The 100% – Maggie’s Story by Springbok Entertainment. Another Tribeca Film Festival Debut, The 100% follows the true story of a ballerina diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is the first nomination and first win for the secretive Springbok Entertainment. It had to beat out a number of top contenders including the VR rendering of Anne Frank’s house.
VR Enterprise Solution
Despite the huge presence of VR tech in enterprise, this is the first year that AIXR has given an award for VR Enterprise Solution of the Year.
This is the first year that Virtualware has received a nomination. However, the company also had a nomination in the healthcare category for its work with the King’s College London.
The AIXR Awards for VR technology cover just about every way in which this revolutionary technology touches our lives. We’ll be keeping an eye on the organization and on their nominations for next year’s awards.