The Virtual Road to the Proto Awards

By Noah J. Nelson (@noahjnelson)

Virtual Reality may just be warming up, but did you know that there is already an awards show for it?

That's right, the Emmy's just wrapped up but VR's premiere award show--in Hollywood, no less--will be taking place this week. The second annual Proto Awards, put on by the organization known as The Virtual Reality Foundation, will be handed out this Tuesday.

This past week Turnstyle ran a series of "getting to know you" interviews with the founders of The VRF, who got their start in the VR community organization game by putting on Virtual Reality Los Angeles. Once a humble Meetup group, the event started by former University of Southern California student Cosmo Scharf has blossomed in the past year and a half into an Expo that brought developers and enthusiasts from around the globe to LA.

The local interest is strong on Los Angeles, which has become a hub for VR content, something VRF founders Jessica Ward and John Root both spoke to.

"LA is really hot for it," said Root, a veteran of the visual effects industry who has watched VFX business get siphoned off due to runaway production. "I think that this has been a great way to reinvent this economy in a way. So were seeing a lot of people get away from visual FX and get into VR."

It's clear that the entertainment industry is taking VR seriously. Just today Disney was announced as one of the parties jumping into a $65 million funding round for Jaunt VR. The founders of The VRF have their eyes on the business opportunities as well. Proto Awards founder Jonnie Ross and Adam Levin, CEO of The VRF, are part of a start-up of their own: Visionary VR, along with Scharf.

Levin is also a partner in Headquarter Music, which his fellow partner and board member James Bairian describes as a "music production house that composes and licenses for film, TV, and advertising." Headquarters has done work with Jaunt, and partners with Visionary on spatialized audio for VR.

Somehow there's still time to produce a semi-annual expo and an awards show.

"The challenge," said Levin, "is six people who have very demanding full-time jobs coming together once a week on Sunday evenings and pulling all this together."

All of it comes to a culmination--this year at least--with the Protos. The show will be hosted by Jonah Ray of Comedy Central's The Meltdown. It also should be the last year the awards will be held without a commercial virtual reality display readily on the market. A snapshot of where the industry is, and where it will be going.

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