The Ember Awards

2021 Ember Awards

The Ember Awards were created nearly 15 years ago to celebrate the digital excellence of individuals and organizations across Alberta. This year, we wanted to continue celebrating these initiatives, as well as shine a light on the wider accomplishments of our community, as well as our diverse leaders.

The Ember Awards committee would like to send out a big thank you to everyone who submitted an application for the 2020/21 awards. In total, 125 applications were made to this event celebrating the best and brightest in Alberta’s Interactive and Digital Media landscape, which is a fantastic result!

Web & Digital Marketing

Winner - Motiv

Business Link engaged the Motiv team to develop a 12-month paid marketing and lead acquisition strategy for the Digital Economy Program (DEP) initiative, funded by the Government of Alberta. The program aims to empower Alberta small business owners (1-49 employees) with free digital transformation support. While designing the microsite, they strived to ignite the feelings of optimism for the future and confidence in the digital practices provided by the Digital Economy Program. The lively colour palette, an interactive UI, and engaging content all contributed to a unique user experience that's easily distinguishable and recognizable amongst local non-profit initiatives.

Winner - Paper Leaf Design

After working with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) on two previous web app projects, the Paper Leaf team was excited to contribute to building a more streamlined, intuitive, secure and user-friendly website for CAA National. This new multilingual, AODA Compliant website was custom-designed and built on WordPress. The Autonomous Vehicles section of content, under Innovation, is an engaging feature of this website. The team designed and built this section of the website as a unique microsite to showcase the cutting-edge AV technologies entering the marketplace.

Winner - Lift Interactive

The Lift Interactive team completely redesigned and developed the website and core CMS platforms from the ground up for their client, USAFacts. As the largest source for standardized US government data, USAFacts offers something unique. They exclusively use publicly available government data - presenting a vast array of reports on US spending, revenue, population and demographics, and policy outcomes. They don’t make judgments or prescribe policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether the quality of life is improving or getting worse — that’s for the user to decide.

Winner - ZGM

More money and attention are spent on the outside of women’s bodies than the inside. To flip the script on the typical glam selfie and show what really matters, ZGM, on behalf of their client, the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, developed Instagram stickers, searchable by the ad author or campaign hashtag, could be placed over women's faces, necks and hearts, allowing the audience to engage with and join in the campaign as models and advocates for the cause.

Winner: FKA

This campaign was created by FKA to raise awareness and encourage attendance of the annual Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF), whether through in-person attendance or online viewing. Through combinations of surrealist illustrations and headlines, the materials promote the festival's Oscar-qualifying status, Lunchbox Shorts events, and international programming.

Winner: DDB Canada

DDB was engaged to develop the new Encore by EPCOR brand. For the brand to communicate carefree meant high entertainment value. It meant whimsy. Energy. Humour. Music played an important role. And the situations portrayed were real life, but better. The execution had a sense of imagination of what is possible to achieve in your daily life because of power and gas with everything from binge watching to coiffing your best friend. A trademark font was chosen. A colour palette that was both calming and commanding was chosen. In video and social the scenarios and animations were quirky as were the voiceovers in vid and radio. The same style of execution translated perfectly to print and DM.

Winner: Sticks & Stones

Engaged by the City of Edmonton, Sticks & Stones developed “Renewable” - a non-fiction web series about the people imagining a sustainable future in the heart of Oil Country. It’s a collection of short form documentary episodes presented in a rational tone. In Alberta, there is a lot of misinformation about climate change. The challenge was to provide clarity in a non partisan way. The target audience wasn’t the “eco-warrior” or the “chemtrail theorist”, it was the middle 70% who are curious - but not overly engaged. The series navigates level headed facts, in human terms, with enough production value and human interest to share. Built into each episode is an element of the City of Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy.

Winner: Amanda Hamilton

Amanda Hamilton’s After Hours podcast serves as a platform for conversations with some of Canada's most dynamic creative entrepreneurs. Driven by open, honest conversations, the host digs into the career trajectory of her guests, learns how they first entered into the entrepreneurial world and finds out what makes their businesses survive and thrive. These conversations are entertaining while also giving listeners tactical insights and takeaways to fuel their own success and rituals.

Winner: Taproot Edmonton

Taproot set out to merge two existing websites into one modern, cohesive web application that would better serve readers and members, while also providing a foundation for future web projects. By doing so, they became a daily publisher and helped tens of thousands of readers better understand what's happening in and around Edmonton. The new website has helped Taproot accomplish what many other newsrooms require much bigger teams to do. Their municipal election site, based on the same foundational web app, was also a big hit this year. They collected more than 21,000 voter responses into their election matching engine, helping readers with their voting decisions in the election. They also served tens of thousands of curious Edmontonians on election night with their results dashboard. Their web apps scaled seamlessly with the demand and presented an excellent first impression for many people new to their work.

Winner: Strut Creative

With the Métis Nation Saskatchewan's primary cultural event at risk, Strut Creative proposed holding it virtually, and within 6 weeks they were ready to host an online experience – meeting the event's original dates. Their work included everything from developing a visual identity to virtual contest mechanics to, of course, design and development of the site itself.

The virtual event replicated the in-person experience as much as possible and included live hosts; streaming and pre-recorded performances, speakers, and workshops; virtual competitions through video uploads; and an online artisan marketplace with links to vendors' websites.

Tech and Innovation

Winner: ePlay Digital

Klocked is the first immersive fitness experience users can experience outdoors that allows them to run in the real world and power their avatar across hundreds of 3D/AR courses. Developed by the ePlay Digital team, the app uses Unity, augmented reality, game engines, leaderboards, gamification, integrates directly into Apple and Android Health apps, and other leading 3rd party providers. Live viewing, replays, spectator viewing, highlight reels, and other key 3D and AR features are available. The app also features detailed sports science, augmented reality audio, and uses the company's P4 AI system that analyzes performance in real-time to offer coaching tips to increase pace, placement, and set new personal bests.

Winner: Broken Pencil Studios

Broken Pencil Studios are an animation studio that provides creative digital solutions for companies, educational institutions, and nonprofits. What began as a one-person effort two years ago quickly became a diversely creative team of twelve (and growing). Their mission is to leave a positive impact in the world through animation, design, and illustration. They are using the best of technology to build, foster a sense of community and using passion to drive teamwork and collaboration across all projects.

Winner: DDB Canada

Alberta Health Services approached DDB with the challenge of empowering kids to make better decisions. DDB knew they had to create something that would connect with 12 – 14-year-olds on their own terms. The learning tool developed - Geminai Rising - is a full-on virtual learning experience. This game took 1.5 years to develop – not a typical undertaking for an agency. It was created from the ground up. Game mechanics were developed. Learning challenges were built into the structure of the game. A storyline was written. Dialogue was scripted. Characters came to life through live-action film, audio recordings and animation. Illustrations, graphics and typography were crafted to be on par with the video games. Every aspect of Geminai Rising had to impress this hard to impress audience.

Winner: DDB Canada

Alberta Health Services approached DDB with the challenge of empowering kids to make better decisions. DDB knew they had to create something that would connect with 12 – 14-year-olds on their own terms. The learning tool developed - Geminai Rising - is a full-on virtual learning experience. This game took 1.5 years to develop – not a typical undertaking for an agency. It was created from the ground up. Game mechanics were developed. Learning challenges were built into the structure of the game. A storyline was written. Dialogue was scripted. Characters came to life through live-action film, audio recordings and animation. Illustrations, graphics and typography were crafted to be on par with the video games. Every aspect of Geminai Rising had to impress this hard to impress audience.

Up-and-coming young talent

Winner: Stephen Huang

Leaving a comfortable job at Microsoft behind, Stephen Huang returned to Calgary to pursue his passion and founded the indie game development studio Isto Inc. They have since developed two games.Their latest game, “Atrio: The Dark Wild”, was nominated for "Best Indie Game" at DevGam 2021. A video series documenting their development journey has garnered over 1.7M views on YouTube. With the launch of Atrio: The Dark Wild on Steam their studio continues to grow as they build their fanbase of players during early access.

Winner: Ty Tomasta

Over the past three years, Ty Tomasta has built an eSports community of nearly 5000 twitch followers and 500 discord members. His viewership continues to grow through partnerships with Alberta Esports Association and multiple companies. His platform has allowed him to connect with people around the world, and he strives to ensure everyone in his community feels comfortable doing what they enjoy: chatting, spectating and playing games with him on stream.

Gaming

Winner: Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY)

The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth has been an influential not-for profit organization in Calgary since 2001. USAY strives to provide essential programming and services to Calgary’s Indigenous youth between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine.

From July to September 2021, Indigenous youth came together to listen to an Indigenous Elder in their community and discuss social justice issues they would like to showcase through a 3D sculpture. Working together they decided on the theme, ‘Remembering Our Children’, commemorating Survivors of Indian Residential Schools and honouring the children who were recovered. The youth hired an experienced artist, Ina Old Shoes, to create the main animation, but also acted as artists that created works of art. Together the artist and five youth were able to create seven art installations. Their final art installation is hosted on the IndigiTRAILS App which is free for download and the GPS location of the installation is located at Prince’s Island Park. IndigiTRAILS launched on the first annual Truth and Reconciliation Day September 30, 2021 with more than 3,100 downloads of the app on that day.

Winner: Neon Noodles

In Neon Noodles players are in charge of a futuristic kitchen operating in a mysterious cyberpunk world. Automate your robot chefs to cook recipes in perfectly elegant loops to create well oiled machines that churn out dish after dish. It is a game that is hard to explain, and equally hard to stop once you experience the satisfaction of solving a few of its challenging puzzles.

Developer Radu Muresan, of Vivid Helix, used real recipes from dishes all around the world for this game. He hopes they will inspire people to try new, tasty foods.

Winner: MAMMOTH XR

One of the largest immersive gaming studios in the province, MAMMOTH XR has been at the forefront of XR content creation and helped to expand the reach of gaming both within Alberta and beyond. Whether it’s healthcare, agriculture, or energy, they have been gamifying Alberta for half a decade. Word has spread about MAMMOTH XR around the world. One of the few companies selected to represent Canada at the Augmented World Expo, their experiences have also appeared at world renown festivals in major cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Nashville, and LA. They were handpicked by Facebook and flown to their head office in Menlo Park, California and the Oculus headquarters in Seattle to present on their work in XR gaming.

Industry Champions

Winner: Mike Lohaus

As president of the Calgary Game Developers Association for the last 3 years, Mike Lohaus has been a pillar of the Calgary games scene, putting hundreds of hours into developing the ecosystem. This work includes hosting the Calgary location for Global Game Jam, co-organizing the Calgary Indie Games Bundle with XSolla, and spearheading the upcoming public arcade project with Calgary Arts Development which will help showcase local talent.

Winner: Tracy Campbell

Tracy Campbell is a former Partner with MNP LLP, former Chief Negotiator for the Government of the Northwest Territories and has over 25 years of experience educating and advising on Indigenous Treaty Rights. What elevates her as an innovator is her work developing a cutting-edge elearning course called "Understanding Indigenous and Treaty Rights", which combines deep research and expertise with traditional story-telling techniques, beautiful graphic design and cutting edge elearning technology to create a highly-engaging and low-barrier-to-entry learning experience. The course received both the "Award of Excellence" and "Members Choice" awards (top honors) at the Canadian National IPL eLearning Awards and has been viewed many thousands of times by employees of some of Canada's largest corporations (MNP, Enbridge, Devon, etc.). She is innovating by bringing this timely and important material to new audiences through the use of technology and continues the tradition of powerful indigenous warriors fighting for justice. She is also a very successful business person, having founded Calliou Group, which provides advice and support to Indigenous nations in their fight to protect their Section 35 rights.

Winner: Amy Yu

Amy Yu is a formidable advocate for women in technology in Alberta. As a co-founder of Kickbyte, a digital marketing agency, Amy’s mission is to raise the profile of Alberta talent in design, digital, and technology through her company and her active community works. Her company is comprised of 78% women, committed to supporting women in technology, and was previously recognized as one of Canada's Top Start-Ups in 2020 by MacLean's.

Winner: Alicia Fowler

Alicia Fowler is a true community champion through her company and her involvement in the community. Alicia is the CEO and founder of a women-led accounting & tax CPA firm located in Edmonton. In 2021, MOD Accounting & Tax was born with the goal of supporting women in business and promoting financial literacy. With Alicia’s guidance, MOD Accounting is changing the way accounting and tax services are provided. Alicia actively supports women in business and is an ally for marginalized groups. She is fearless in raising awareness and working to create an inclusive community for diverse backgrounds. She is a board member for SkirtsAFire, Edmonton’s only theatre, and multidisciplinary arts organization featuring women and non-binary artists, an activator for SheEO, an organization that builds a supportive community for women and non-binary people starting business ventures, and a board member with SeedChange, a non-profit organization that works with farmers, to strengthen their ability to grow food sustainably with locally adapted seeds.

Industry Leadership

Winners:

PatiML

Fidelity Factory

Runwithit Synthetics

Red Iron Labs

PatiML, a new venture started out of the University of Calgary, uses products and services to support Alberta’s primary industries and develop effective innovation networks. Using machine learning against patent databases, Alberta innovators can quickly shape a view of how other global innovators and innovation can be connected to work on Alberta’s most challenging problems. Notably, in 2021, they completed the launch of your MVP product and were able secure your first sale in the energy industry.

Fidelity Factory is providing customers access to low-code knowledge, skill sets and tools to lower the time and cost to solving business problems. Their steady growth and ability to create meaningful jobs for Albertans in 2021, as well as their collaboration with Alberta midstream companies by assisting them with their digital transformation. Their reputation for collaboration and value-focused solutions have allowed them to export their services to other markets across Canada and help put Alberta's digital service providers on the map.

Runwithit Synthetics combines advanced simulation, modelling and AI to bring the futures of cities and regions to life and help them experience and prepare for the future. These live, synthetic environments are at work in cities around the world informing diverse groups of decision-makers about the short term and long term interconnected impacts and outcomes of their choices. RUNWITHIT is a women-led, Certified Aboriginal Business, with a growing diverse and representative team, who are all GBA+ certified. In the last 2 years, RUNWITHIT celebrated multiple international awards including winning the United Nation’s Industry Development Organization Global Call for “Decarbonizing Growing Urban Environments,” and was certified EU SET100 as a top 100 company in energy transition and mobility. At home, they received the 2021 “Most Edmonton” Startup from YEG Tech Awards.

Red Iron Labs is a proven immersive experience solutions provider that has helped transform our traditional sectors. Originally created as a video game company for virtual reality, they rapidly expanded the company through innovation, to offer AR/VR/game development services to all key industries. With over 200 projects under your belt, Red Iron has developed safety training simulations in VR for ExxonMobil, animated storytelling in AR for a pediatric dentist to reduce patient anxiety, highlighted language revival efforts for the Blackfoot Tribe with syllabic translations on mobile app, and much more!

Winners:

Critical Mass

Unity

Critical Mass is a world-class digital design agency. From their humble beginnings in 1996, they have been able to expand to ten cities around the globe, with over 900 employees. In the process, they have provided countless Albertans with unique work opportunities on some of the most recognized consumer brands and developed world-class digital skill sets for our local economy. They continue to receive countless marketing awards, and we at Digital Alberta are grateful they have chosen to scale their business globally over the years, with a home in Calgary.

Unity, while a relative newcomer to the Alberta ecosystem, have set forth ambitious plans to create 200 full-time jobs by 2023 for highly-skilled design, software development and management professionals. By bringing industry leading “creator’s” tools from games and applying them to more traditional sectors they are fostering the development of more “creators” which is a critical skill set for a digital economy. They have brought leading solution development practices to the province, and continue to learn, grow, and adapt to changing technologies across all major sectors. Additionally, they have also taken a leading role in working with the government to establish policies and practices that will make Alberta's digital economy more attractive and competitive. They are living your motto “the world is better with more creators”.

We would like to offer our particular thanks to the generous support of our sponsors. The interest and dedication these companies have shown to Alberta’s digital community is incredible, and they are helping us showcase the incredible talent this province has. If you get the chance, please show your love and support for these companies, as they are all trying to create a more robust interactive digital media community in the province.

Ember Sponsors