Hedy Lamarr Award 2021 for Outstanding Achievements by Women in Information Technology

More+Events ♦ Published: October 25, 2021; 15:38 ♦ (Vindobona)

The City of Vienna announced the winner of the 2021 Hedy Lamarr Award for outstanding achievements by women in information technology. Find out who won this year for her work on innovative learning methods and immersive experiences.

Dr. Johanna Pirker (mid-right) accepts the 2021 Hedy Lamarr Award from the City of Vienna. / Picture: © Magistrat der Stadt Wien / PID / VOTAVA

Researcher Johanna Pirker, who works at the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), received this year's Hedy Lamarr Award from the City of Vienna for her research on innovative learning methods and immersive experiences.

Dr. Pirker’s research spans artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), games, and human-computer interaction, while also engaging with the fields of energy research, urban planning, and medicine.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Pirker said, “I am very pleased and grateful to be awarded the 2021 Hedy Lamarr Award.”

Pirker continued, “Video games and virtual reality still constantly struggle with many prejudices. Yet these offer different possibilities for motivating learning, for interactive therapies, or even for climate research and are not called empathy machines for nothing. These media allow innovative ways of experiencing that are not possible with traditional methods. I would like to use this potential of virtual worlds to make the real world a little better. I also want my work to show young women that gaming and IT are not a male-only domain.”

“With the Hedy Lamarr Award, we want to bring outstanding achievements by women in IT before the curtain and make them visible,” said Digitization City Councilor Ulli Sima. “Role models like the Hedy Lamarr Award winners show girls and young women that the doors in IT are also open to them and motivate them to start a successful career in this field!”

Explaining the jury's decision, Verena Fuchsberger-Staufer, a researcher at the University of Salzburg and 2018 Hedy Lamarr Award winner, said, “Not only is the scientific significance of Dr. Johanna Pirker’s work in the field of virtual learning methods and immersive games impressive, but also her achievements on a societal level.”

Fuchsberger-Staufer added, “Pirker develops and deploys tools to make learning more interactive and exciting, publishes her lectures and talks, and supports tech startups, to name a few of her accomplishments. Her goal to revolutionize the future of learning and that she especially encourages young girls to see computer science as a colorful, creative tool to make the world a better place make her an excellent role model and a worthy Hedy Lamarr Award recipient.”

Deputy Mayor and Women's City Councilor Kathrin Gaál said, “The Hedy Lamarr Award recognizes innovative women in IT, thereby giving visibility to their achievements. The award is named after Vienna-born inventor and Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. She went her own way, away from role models–just like the award winners. Role models encourage girls and young women to confidently go their own way and show that all opportunities are open to them. The message of the Hedy Lamarr Award is: Dare to do anything!”

“Since 2018, the Hedy Lamarr Award of the City of Vienna honors female researchers in Austria for their outstanding achievements in the field of information technology. Johanna Pirker and previous years’ award winners Laura Nenzi, Martina Lindorfer, and Verena Fuchsberger-Staufer can act as important role models to encourage girls and young women to become active in this field of research,” said City Councillor for Science Veronica Kaup-Hasler.

Kaup-Hasler added, “Pirker's research priorities are of the utmost importance to society. The range of fields Pirker knows how to connect, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality to gaming, and the particular focus on the educational aspect is what makes her work so appealing.”

About Johanna Pirker

Johanna Pirker completed her Ph.D. in Computer Science at TU Graz in 2017 and also studied at the renowned MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

As part of her dissertation, she initiated Project Maroon, an award-winning virtual reality (VR) learning environment that was featured in Forbes Magazine.

She is an assistant professor at the Graz University of Technology, founder of the GameLab Graz research group, organizes the largest Austrian game development conference “Game Dev Days,” and has worked in game development at Electronic Arts during her time there.

About the Hedy Lamarr Award

The City of Vienna awards the Hedy Lamarr Award every year together with DigitalCity.Wien and Urban Innovation Vienna.

The award recognizes outstanding achievements by women in information technology.

It is also endowed with 10,000 euros.

An independent jury of experts determines the winner, who in turn automatically becomes a member of the jury.

The award ceremony traditionally takes place as the closing event of the Digital Days.

City of Vienna