2021 AUREA: Summary and video recordings

On January 22 and 23, a group of ten masked individuals bumped elbows at an empty theme park in Southern Germany. It was the beginning of the third AUREA Awards & Conference, an two-day event that brings together almost 300 creative professionals, Tech Humanists, Futurists, crypto-artists, cartoonists, a virtual DJ and more from all over the world.

It’s not just about business. It’s not just about networking. It’s about the work. It’s about celebrating excellent craft. - Clark Parsons, AUREA Jury Secretary and Host of Day One

On January 22 and 23, a group of ten masked individuals bumped elbows at an empty theme park in Southern Germany. It was the beginning of the third AUREA Awards & Conference, an two-day event that brings together almost 300 creative professionals, Tech Humanists, Futurists, crypto-artists, cartoonists, a virtual DJ and more from all over the world.

Over the past two years, AUREA has created a tight-knit community through its two-day event. People network. Participants trade ideas. They ride Europa Park’s famous roller coasters together.

Yet this January, due to the unprecedented global pandemic, the Mack family behind Germany’s famous Europa-Park hosted an online-offline event. How to describe this unparalleled and unique conference? To put it in words, it was something like: watching the Oscars, but unlike the Oscars, you can ask the host questions, direct message the presenters, meet the artists in your own SIMS-like character on AltspaceVR and even have a spontaneous zoom call with a celebrity or two in a Chat Roulette style networking session.

Emily Olman, Community Ambassador in her opening remarks

If anyone is going to show how to be all digital, it’s the XR community. We are already living that reality.

Day One

Friday night kicked off with an all-female panel. Kathleen Cohen, panel host, tech Futurist and Chair of the AUREA Jury led a conversation - through her avatar - about the essential role of storytelling with Emily Olman, Amy Jupiter and Cathy Hackl. And the impact that stories had over the past year.

Afterwards, there were three breakout sessions. Each session was an informal, interactive roundtable where creative experts discussed a different topical issue at the intersection of technology and entertainment.

One focused on creative leadership--at home. How are creative teams collaborating online, and how creative leaders reimagined their process and mentoring teams online and across time zones?

The second engaged five XR and AR investors and facilitated a big-picture exchange: where do investors see the industry headed, and what are current AR, VR trends that end-users crave?

The third drew five experts, who discussed hyper-reality: an extremely immersive alternate reality that one can step into, live, and experience. In hyper-reality, you can trick your brain into thinking that you are somewhere else.

After some Conclusions and findings, next came many audience members’ favorite portion of the conference. It was professional speed dating held on Hopin in a Chat Roulette style.

Clark Parsons, host of day 1

One of the things we love about AUREA are the informal exchanges.

The night ended with a bang. Acclaimed animators from Disney Paris and the geniuses behind Germany’s beloved, Connie, the Schröder brothers gave us an insight into their creative process (and their homes) in their magical presentation The Art of Storytelling.

Day 2

The second day of the conference was equally inspiring, with more glamour and a different format. Host Alexander Mazza led the audience through three keynote lectures, ten finalist pitches, three winners, a new Entertainment award and one virtual dance party.

German State Minister of Digitalization, Dorothee Bär started the day with encouragement. She emphasized the importance of the AUREAs for Germany and the necessity of digital technologies, like AR and VR for our future.

Kathleen Cohen, Jury Chair transcended time and challenged minds in her talk, When Present and Future(s) Collide. She explored how artists and storytellers have changed cultures and consciousness throughout history and encouraged storytellers to set an intention - do no harm - for the next frontier of entertainment.

Next, ten finalists pitched to our all-star Jury. The ten finalists were diverse. There was a worldwide scavenger hunt for non-fungible tokens (NFT) in Pilgrimage; a multi-player ‘escape room’ in the Prince of Persia: the Dagger of Time; a hyper-reality experience as searching for arctic ice in Ice Cube Protocol; a VR expedition on the moon; walk through a photo gallery in New Orleans with Art in the Metaverse; experience VR without a headset for the first time with Brelyon and more.

While the Jury deliberated and finalists broke a little sweat, everyone gathered in AltspaceVR to mingle. Participants, speakers, finalists and attendees met through their SIMs-like avatars in the unique space, Emily Olman and her team created.

XR industry professional, investor and the Managing Director of vTime Limited, Clemens Wangerin answered the question, ‘what does it take to be permanently successful with a VR start-up on the market?’ in his presentation From Pitch to Maturity: Scaling VR Ventures.

Then, the AUREA’s shifted tone: from business back to cutting edge immersive storytelling. Three students at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg presented clips of their short films in the hopes of winning the first-ever AUREA Entertainment Award. MackNext will cosponsor the full production of the winners working.

Keeping pace with the vision and raw creative energy cherished at the AUREAs, Cybercity Love Story, a transmedia series that intertwines plot with VR gaming, won.

Finally, Professor Volker Helzle of the Film Academy and animation institute had the unenviable job of keeping us entertained--and distracted in the final moments before the awards ceremony. In his presentation, Leveraging technologies to tell stories showed us how to create a film - virtually - in what is called post-production.

Before the award ceremony started, Electronic Music Artist "Ain the Machine" performed an amazing, 45 Minute Live-Music-Show.

The Winners

2020 AUREA Experience Winner, Nils Wollny of Holoride presented Babbelsberg-based start up Feelbelt as winner of the Experience AUREA. Feelbelt created a belt to expand the sensory experience of virtual reality--beyond turning up the volume. Feelbelt translates every audio signal and event into haptic feedback. It allows users to experience music or games in a whole new way, and our Jury was particularly team impressed by their vision and inclusivity; the belt translates audio for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals as well.

Cathy Hackl presented Endava and Arthelps with the Impact award for their work Rebuilt from Memories. The jury selected this moving and downright beautiful German project to have the most social impact. It uses Instagram photos to reconstruct the Syrian city of Aleppo before the Syrian war, relying on photos from the social media platform to be an archive of personal memories and form a collective memory online.

Thomas Wagner of VR Coaster presented the Silicon-Valley based team from Adventure Lab with the Interaction award for their work Dr. Crumb's School for Disobedient Pets. The multiplayer, live-hosted virtual adventure particularly impressed the jury with its unique, covid-friendly format. Players can sign up for a time and meet friends from all over the world in a virtual room, using a VR headset to master a range of tricky tasks. A perfect thrill for a social distancing.

Finally, Kathleen Cohen presented the California-Based BRCvr team with the Creative Award for their work Burning Man 2020 in VR. Through the covid crisis these artists and visionaries recreated the infamous La Playa from the Burning man festival online--in virtual reality. It gave artists and visitors the opportunity to participate.

The 2-Day Event ended with an impressive final song from Artist "Ain the machine".

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