The Nextant Prize is awarded to influential leaders who rely on compassion and humanitarianism to guide their contributions to virtual, augmented, mixed reality and society.

Nonny de la Peña

Nextant 2018

“Without a doubt, Nonny de la Peña’s influence on both VR and Journalism has set us on a new path in how we know and understand news events, beyond simply hearing or seeing them, to actually experiencing them, and her efforts are especially deserving on this Nextant award!”

Nonny de la Peña is being recognized with a ’s Nextant award is being recognized for bothfor her many breakthrough contributions to immersive journalism, a field she pioneered in the mid-2000s while working at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Prior to the third wave of VR innovation, she built immersive news-based reporting environments within online virtual worlds such as Second Life. In her Gone Gitmo piece, participants were virtually captured and incarcerated in the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, where they were subjected to torture techniques in a prison world filled with video from her own documentary film Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties.

Her first immersive journalistic VR work, Hunger in LA was the first such documentary invited to the prestigious Sun Dance Film Festival in 2012. She followed that with award winning experiences such as Project Syria that places a participant on a street corner in Aleppo with children when a bomb goes off nearby, Use of Force about a border crossing incident, and We Who Remain, the first VR film shot in an actual conflict zone, to name but a few.

Nonny’s award-winning ground-breaking work in immersive news reporting and creation of immersive journalism environments within online virtual worlds dates to her work at University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies in the 2000’s.

In addition to her many award-winning immersive journalism works, she is a noted VR researcher, working with others such as Mel Slater, with whom she worked on projects that probe the psychological effects of virtual reality on participants. In 2015, Nonny presented her innovative idea – remembering a story with your entire body – at the prestigious TED event. Her company, The Emblematic Group, uses cutting edge technology to focus on meaningful high impact virtual reality content with an emphasis on accurate storytelling and creating empathic engagement on the part of participants.

Mark Bolas

Nextant 2018

“Mark Bolas has always been curious about how to advance the human experience using technology, and we are thrilled to recognize his decades of achievements, inspiring, inventing, mentoring, and teaching,” says Virtual World Society founder and VR industry leader, Dr. Thomas Furness III, PhD.

Mark Bolas is being recognized by the Virtual World Society for his decades of outstanding contributions , pathfinding vision, and commitment to the exploration, technical advancement and creative possibilities of VR – contributions that have sparked and inspired the imaginations of countless students, colleagues inventors and creators. Without his leadership, the XR community would not be where it is today

A rare combination of engineer, scientist, musician, and humanist, as well as inventor, Mark has been especially prolific in developing hardware and software with amazing attention to human senses , perception, and the human body. He’s.”

In 1988, as a Stanford University grad student, Mark, with Ian McDowall and Eric Lorimer, co-founded Fakespace Inc. to build instrumentation for research labs to explore virtual reality.
Their work led to the invention of display and interaction tools used world-wide by VR research and development centers, including the BOOM (Binocular Omni-Orientation Monitor), Pinch glove, VLIB software, and the ground-breaking Fakespace Music Project.

In 2005, Mark Bolas was awarded the IEEE Virtual Reality Technical Achievement Award in recognition for seminal technical achievements in virtual and augmented reality.

Mark Bolas currently serves as Microsoft Research’s Partner Director of Program Management. Before joining Microsoft, he led the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, where his team developed a cellphone-based cardboard VR viewer, years before Google popularized the approach. While at USC, Bolas hired and mentored Palmer Luckey, whose head-mounted display prototype became the Kickstarter project, Oculus, later purchased by Facebook.

Brenda Laurel

Nextant 2017

Esteemed artist, author, educator and technology pioneer Brenda Laurel is being honored with the Virtual World Society’s Nextant Prize at the 2017 Augmented World Expo.

Brenda Laurel is a true pioneer in creating ground breaking virtual experiences and has inspired generations of new practitioners in the VR industry that is just now burgeoning into mainstream awareness. As the recipient of the Nextant Prize she represents the timeless vision and uplifting enthusiasm for the future that is embodied in all her work. As a contemporary of the first Nextant Prize recipient (Randy Pausch), she has earned the greatest respect and awe from the citizens of Virtual Worlds as a model, mentor and philosopher.

Dr. Laurel’s 1991 landmark book, Computers as Theatre (re-released and updated in 2104), provided critical insight and inspiration for a new generation of artists and scientists developing more human-centered approaches to technology. Her games and immersive works helped realign technology to a more diverse playing field, opening up these areas to include all genders and cultures. Her publications on design and interactivity are still critical reading for today’s inventors and creators because they touch so many human aspects of computer technology. Her latest writings [for example: “AR and VR: Cultivating the Garden”, and “What is Virtual Reality”] on how Virtual Reality should continue to grow and develop are must reads for today’s immersive designers.

Randy Pausch

Nextant 2016, the First Nextant