Tanja Barnes


Last Night’s Proto Awards in Hollywood

Shane Nilsson, Coal Car Studio
Shane Nilsson – Proto Award Winner for “Fruit Golf”

Hellooooo, e’erbody. It’s been awhile, I know.  Let’s catch up!

Since my last post, I’ve been working on a project for Amazon Studios that has recently wrapped. It’s been wonderful, but unfortunately, there’s been no time for working on my panoramas. Now that my job is finished, I have a backlog of VR images to process and upload. Wait for it.  They’ll be coming soon!

Last night was the Proto Awards, an event produced by the Virtual Reality Foundation to reward individuals and teams making strides in the field of virtual reality. The event took place at the Avalon in Hollywood, blocks away from where the first Oscars (May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel) and Emmys ceremonies (January 25, 1949, at the Hollywood Athletic Club) took place.

My friends from Coal Car Studios were up for their game “Fruit Golf” and won! Coal Car Studios are a team of two brothers — Shane and Tyler Nilsson — from Canada whom I met when we all spoke on the social VR panel at the “Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” summit in Beijing late last year. Since Tyler was unable to make the ceremony, I got to be a +1 at the table. The photo above is Shane Nilsson accepting the award.

Proto Award Winners 2016
Proto Award winners (left to right): Shane Nilsson “Fruit Golf” – Best Student Experience;  E McNeill “Tactera” – Best Mobile Experience; Bruce Wooden “Altspace VR” – Best Social Experience; David Whelan “Apollo 11 VR” – Most Transportive Experience; Lee Vermeulen “Alientrap” – Best User Interface

We seemed to have been seated in good company at the Winners Table because as you can see, five recipients took home a Proto.

Shane gave a succinct and sweet acceptance speech that even MC Ron Funches had something positive to say. But the quote of the night was when, as we were headed back to our cars after the event was over Shane remarked, “Wow. I win this award, and suddenly all these girls start talking to me.”

Ron Funches
Give it up for MC / Host of the Proto Awards Ron Funches 

As I mentioned, the Master of Ceremonies / Host of the 2016 Proto Awards was comedian, nerd and actor Ron Funches, known for his roles on NBC’s “Undateable” and the upcoming series “Powerless.”  I especially enjoyed connecting with him because he is not only a real emcee, he is smart and hilarious.  It’s great to see diversity coming to the VR space!

Tom Furness, Proto Founders Award
Tom Furness, VR pioneer, Professor in the University of Washington Department of 
Industrial & Systems Engineering, and the founder of the Human Interface Technology Lab

The highlight of the evening was when I got to meet Thom Furness III, who was honored with the Founders Award.  Furness has been pioneering virtual and augmented reality for the past 50 years and has come to be known as the “Grandfather of VR.”

Thom got his start back in 1966 while he was in the Air Force building some of the first helmet-mounted displays. He left the military to head up the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington, which has been doing original research to validate the efficacy of VR in the areas of medicine, education, and training. He also helped invent the virtual retinal display technology in the early 90s, which is being used as some of the basis of Magic Leap’s lightfield display technologies. Today Furness continues to be a virtual reality visionary serving as the Founder of the Virtual World Society

The Proto awards was a blast. Congratulations to all the winners!