Why SXSW Started an Awards Program Recognizing Immersive Experiences This Year

Winners included HBO and Giant Spoon, and Sony Brand Design Platform

HBO's investment in creating an immersive experience for Westworld fans at SXSW scored the Best Immersive Experience Arrow Award. HBO/Giant Spoon
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Over the past few years, brands have ramped up the number of immersive experiences at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. So it makes sense that the festival would seek to recognize that work. This year, SXSW created a new awards program, the SXSW Creative Experience Arrow Awards.

“SXSW has long hosted awards for technology innovation, film and music,” said Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder. “The presence of agencies and brand activations has grown to such a sophisticated level at the event that it made perfect sense to add this recognition.”

Swenson continued: “The hard part was selecting only three in the pool of stellar ideas, but we see this as the precursor to a larger awards program in 2019.”

Winners of this year’s Arrow Awards include HBO and Giant Spoon (Best Immersive Experience) for the Westworld “Live Without Limits” experience and Sony Brand Design Platform (Best Use of Technology) for the Sony Wow Studio. The third award (Spirit of SXSW) went to art collective Meow Wolf for Fractallage, a pop-up installation, and The Atrium, a VR experience.

The winners of the awards were selected by SXSW staff as well as leaders at Austin-based agencies, according to a release.

Read full descriptions of the winners below:

Best Immersive Experience
HBO and Giant Spoon for Live without Limits Weekend, an immersive Westworld experience

HBO and Giant Spoon created an immersive theatrical experience for Westworld. Attendees were shuttled to a remote location where a recreation of the town of Sweetwater awaited them. The experience included actors trained for months in advance to create a fictional story that came to life on the two-acre set.

Best Use of Technology
Sony Brand Design Platform for Sony Wow Studio

Sony’s Wow Studio showcased 11 projects and prototypes that blended art and technology. The ambitious installation included VR, robotics, a super high speed sensor and 3D audio technology. One example within the installation used motion tracking projectors that allowed visitors to interact with virtual objects while small 3D-printed musical instruments came to life under the system’s sensors.

Spirit of SXSW
Meow Wolf, Fractallage (a pop-up installation) and The Atrium (VR experience)

Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based art collective whose documentary film, Meow Wolf: Origin Story was accepted into the SXSW Film Festival, expanded their Austin presence with a pop-up installation, Fractallage and a VR experience, The Atrium. The collective’s DIY outsider spirit came to life in their wide-ranging SXSW participation.

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.