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Engadget Awards $500,000 to These Five Immersive Art Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

Tech news publication Engadget is set to announce the five recipients of its first Alternate Realities grant program Friday, which will each showcase their works to the public at an event in Los Angeles this coming November. The grantees include “House of Cards” writer / producer Charlotte Stoudt, “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jesse Williams and media artist Kristin Lucas.

The idea behind the Alternate Realities grant program was to support artists whose work pushes the boundaries of immersive technology, explained Engadget editor-in-chief Christopher Trout. “Funding for the arts is at a precarious place right now,” he said.

At the same time, using cutting-edge tech can be quite costly, especially if the goal is to not just build a VR app, but an installation, or something that can be explored by multiple people. That’s  why Engadget decided to give $100,000 each to five grantees. “We really wanted to put a lot of money behind this thing,” said Trout.

Engadget first announced the Alternate Realities Grants in May, and received more than 300 submissions as a result. A selection committee helped to narrow down this list to 20 projects, and the publication’s editors finally decided on the following five winners:

    • “Untrained Eyes” by Glenn Kaino and Jesse Williams uses facial recognition technology to scour the internet for and then display images that are similar to the face of an audience member. The installation is meant to explore issues around race and inclusion, and highlight how algorithms for image searches and other types of artificial intelligence are influenced by invisible biases.
    • “Your Hands Are Feet” by Amelia Winger-Bearskin and Sarah Rothberg is an interactive room-scale VR experience that is accompanying the indie motherhood comedy “Egg.” The experience lets participants experience surreal animated worlds.
    • “Dinner Party” by Laura Wexler, Charlotte Stoudt, Saschka Unseld and Angel Soto is a VR thriller that uses the plot line of an alien abduction to explore issues of race and perception in 1960s America.
    • “Mapper’s Delight” by Tahir Hemphill is a VR experience that combines mapping and natural language processing to visualize the hidden geographies of hip-hop lyrics.
    • “Dance with flARmingos” by Kristin Lucas is a mixed reality experience that invites participants to dance together with flamingo holograms, and build a closer relationship to a species threatened by climate change.

All five projects are going to be unveiled at the Engadget Experience, a one day event dedicated to the future of creativity, on November 14.

The event will be held at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, with Trout remarking that the former United Artist theater was at the forefront of modern-day filmmaking when it opened its doors in 1927. Now, Engadget wants to use the space to highlight the next generation of immersive media.

“We really wanted to show the breadth of what these technologies can do,” said Trout about the selection. “All of them really speak to the possibilities of emerging media.”

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