DEG to Honor VR Innovator, Carnegie Mellon Student With Hedy Lamarr Awards

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña.

De la Peña is often recognized as the “Godmother of VR” for her pioneering work in immersive film, according to the DEG.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG will also present the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology to Cassidy Pearsall of Carnegie Mellon University. This award recognizes female college students in their junior year whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. Pearsall will receive a financial award to continue her education. The DEG will also recognize Finalist with Distinction Lucy Scherrer, also of Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Finalists Katharine Derringer of the University of Michigan and Marissa Dianas of Boston University.

“We are proud to present DEG’s 2018 Hedy Lamarr Awards to Nonny de la Peña, for her profound commitment to immersive storytelling through virtual reality, and Cassidy Pearsall, a student with extraordinary potential,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO, DEG, in a statement. “Each woman reflects the spirit of Hedy Lamarr and honors her legacy of innovation in entertainment and technology.”

The awards will be presented at a reception in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1 to coincide with the 104th anniversary of Lamarr’s birth (Nov. 9, 1914). Deluxe Entertainment Services Group will host the reception. Sony, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Corp. of America, are presenting sponsors.

“I’m honored to accept this award inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of Hedy Lamarr,” said de la Peña in a statement. “As a Hollywood actress, she was defined primarily by her appearance, but it was what was beneath the surface — her accomplishment as a scientist and inventor that most dramatically impacted the world. At Emblematic Group we too are always trying to get beneath the surface by using immersive journalism to put spectators into environments they never would have been able to experience otherwise, allowing people to empathize and understand others through the lens of VR and AR.”

Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in a number of film classics, including Samson and DelilahThe Strange Woman, and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

To determine the award winners, the DEG enlisted a judging panel comprised of a cross-section of leaders representing the entertainment, technology, academic, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the principles of innovation, engagement and excellence.

De la Peña was named “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by The Guardian and Engadget, while Fast Company recognized her as one of the people who made the world more creative for her groundbreaking work in immersive journalism. A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine, de la Peña founded Emblematic Group in 2007. The company became an innovator in walk around virtual reality with the first-ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Emblematic has also produced Project Syria, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum, Use of ForceOne Dark NightOut of ExileAfter Solitary and Greenland Melting. Emblematic is currently launching the REACH web platform, which allows anyone to tell their story in room-scale VR.

Pearsall is a student in Carnegie Mellon University’s Theatrical Video and Media Design program, and a recipient of the university’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. She is training as a theatrical designer and technician in scenic design and construction and lighting design and programming. She is currently developing a video design, including animation integrated with documentary style interviews and live filming, for a new play, I’m Sure I’ll Figure it Out.

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