What you missed at last week's Engadget Experience

That time we gave away half a million dollars to commission five immersive art installations.


Engadget has been around for 13 years. If you asked me when I joined in 2011, or the site's founders in 2004, how they expected this website to evolve, I'm sure none of us would have guessed that we'd one day be able to call ourselves art curators. But this is 2017, and in the years since it launched, Engadget has changed. No longer do we restrict ourselves to just hardware or even software. The Engadget of today is just as interested in robots, AI, gaming, space travel, design, electric cars, virtual reality, augmented reality, even mixed reality. We cover art, too, as it relates to things like games, storytelling in VR and technology in pop culture. Tech is everywhere now, and we're a more well-rounded publication because of it.

But back to the art curation. Earlier this year, we received what may as well have been a blank check from our parent company. It's not every day that we receive a windfall, so we decided to go big -- and get a little weird in the process. Our vision: The Engadget Experience, an event where we would put on an art exhibition, comprised of immersive-tech pieces that we commissioned ourselves. We put out a call to artists, promising to award five grants worth $100,000 apiece.

The response was tremendous -- all told, we received more than 300 applications. And we can't say we were surprised: This was the biggest prize pot in this space, and at a time when arts funding is generally seeing cuts. Sifting through those submissions was time-consuming -- many of the applications were lengthy, and described concepts that hadn't yet been attempted -- but with the help of four guest judges we narrowed the list down to the five on display last week. Would that we had even more space, and even more money: There were many proposals we loved that didn't make the cut.

If you were able to join us in LA last Tuesday, thanks! We loved seeing crowds of people listening to panels and waiting in line to check out each of the interactive installations. If you didn't happen to be in the area, we can only hope that we'll have a chance to do something like this again one day. In the meantime, we've put together a recap video above, and as this week unfolds, we'll be debuting short documentaries that were meant to showcase our grant winners' work, particularly for those who weren't able to see it in person.

As you'll see, these projects are diverse in nature, but if one theme unites them, it's this: The technology and art worlds often operate apart from one another, in silos, but weird and beautiful things can happen when the two sides are in conversation. We want that conversation to continue, every day, on Engadget.