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Natural Social Interactions at the Hybrid Conference of the Future

This is an open invitation to anyone interested in Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) to participate in the ISMAR Contest. The ISMAR Contest will be held during IEEE ISMAR 2021, the premier conference for AR and MR, October 4-8, 2021. Prizes include a $1,500 First Prize and an invitation to submit an IEEE TVCG paper, see the Prizes section below.

The purpose of the ISMAR Contest is to stimulate innovative and creative solutions to facilitating the “Hybrid Conference of the Future”, in which conference attendees can synchronously engage each other intellectually and socially in a natural manner, as if they were co-located in the same real-world venue, despite only some being physically present at the venue, while others attend remotely. The theme of the contest is “Natural Social Interactions”. 

For this year’s ISMAR Contest, we expect the following functionalities of any solution:

  • The implemented solution facilitates natural social interactions among multiple remote attendees joining a conference from various global locations.
    • The solution must include software that ISMAR 2021 remote attendees can download, install, and use to engage in the social interactions.
    • The solution software must support at least one of the following types of devices: desktop/laptop, smartphone, tablet. However, ideal solutions will support all three and will be cross platform (i.e., Windows/MacOS/Linux for desktops and laptops, Android/iOS for smartphones and tablets).
  • The implemented solution preserves the natural social interactions among multiple attendees co-located at a conference in the same real-world space. 
    • Contestants will be responsible for bringing the hardware for the co-located attendees to ISMAR 2021.
  • The implemented solution facilitates natural social interactions among the multiple remote attendees and the multiple attendees co-located at a conference in the real-world space.

Selected contestants will be required to provide a live demonstration of their solutions during ISMAR 2021, October 4-8, 2021. ISMAR 2021 is scheduled to be a hybrid conference; however, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the conference may become purely virtual. Contestants are expected to create solutions that can be demonstrated for either modality, i.e., hybrid or purely virtual (where all attendees are remote).


The team with the Grand Prize solution will receive a $1500 reward and will be invited to submit an IEEE Transactions on Visualizations and Computer Graphics (TVCG) journal paper, which will be included in the IEEE ISMAR 2022 Journal Proceedings. In addition to describing the solution, this TVCG journal paper must also include a formal evaluation of the solution, which can be conducted after the 2021 Competition. The submission will undergo the same reviewing rigor as all other journal submissions.

The team with the Grand Prize solution will also receive 3-Day All Access Passes to AWE USA 2021: The team will receive up to five AWE USA 2021 passes, depending on the number of team members.

The team with the Honorable Mention solution will receive a $500 reward for their solution.

Contest Entry (Due July 19, 2021)

Teams interested in entering the ISMAR Contest should send a high-quality video (no more than 5 minutes) demonstrating their tentative solution, a brief description of the solution, a title for the solution, and a list of all team members via email to by July 19, 2021. The Contest Chairs will review the contest entries and will notify teams whether their entries have been selected or not by July 26, 2021.

Abstract Submission (Due August 6, 2021)

Teams selected for the competition must submit an abstract (2 pages) that describes their solution and its innovations. This abstract must adhere to the ISMAR 2021 Conference Proceedings format: Abstracts selected via peer review will be published in the conference proceedings of IEEE ISMAR 2021 and will be included in the IEEE Xplore digital library.

Competition (October 4-8, 2021)

Teams selected for the competition will demonstrate their solutions live at IEEE ISMAR 2021. If ISMAR 2021 is held as a hybrid conference, teams can choose to either demonstrate their solutions at ISMAR 2021 in Bari, Italy or remotely. If ISMAR 2021 is held as a purely virtual conference, all teams will demonstrate their solutions remotely.

A panel of judges with no conflicts of interest will be chosen to judge the demonstrations and solutions. Additionally, IEEE ISMAR 2021 attendees will have the ability to vote for their favorite demonstrations and solutions. The Contest Chairs will use the feedback of the judges and the attendee votes to decide Grand Prize and Honorable Mention solutions.


You can contact us at if you have any further questions. Call updates will be posted on the contest page at

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can our solution use head-mounted displays (e.g., Microsoft HoloLens 2) and other sensors (e.g., depth cameras)?
Yes. There are no hardware restrictions. You can incorporate any additional hardware into your solution for local users, remote users, or both. However, you will be expected to bring such equipment for the local conference users (i.e., we will not be providing any equipment onsite at the conference).

Does our solution have to support computer, tablet, or smartphone remote users?
Yes. Your solution is required to support at least one type of common device (computer, tablet, or smartphone). However, we recommend that solutions support as many of these common devices and operating systems as possible. We want remote conference attendees with only common hardware to be able to experience your solution.

Contest Chairs

Ferran Argelaguet, INRIA Rennes, France
Ryan P. McMahan, University of Central Florida, USA
Voicu Popescu, Purdue University, USA