Immersive content agency Purple Pill has announced a VR interface design competition and is offering $10,000 in cash prizes to those who create the best virtual reality interfaces.

From gaze-based interaction modalities to laser pointer menus to skeuomorphic knobs and buttons, today’s VR interfaces are all over the place. Even from one motion controller to the next, VR interface designs don’t agree on the best way to pick up and hold virtual objects. It’s going to take time before reaching any sort of consensus on VR interface design, but Purple Pill is hoping to spur things along.

Most of today’s VR interfaces are carryovers from screen-based interfaces

The company has announced a VR interface design contest that begins today and runs until March 15th. Entries will be judged on Usability, Design, Creativity, and Performance. The first place prize is $7,500 in cash and the second place prize is $2,500.

“The majority of interfaces we see in the current generation of VR apps are confusing and rather plain. They’re usually not much more than a floating plane with some text on it,” says Purple Pill’s Nick Kraakman. “With this competition we want to stimulate designers and developers from around the world to come up with fresh ideas about UI’s in VR and create some innovative designs that push the boundaries of this exciting medium.”

VR Interface Design Insights from Mike Alger

What’s the catch? Well, Purple Pill isn’t quite doing this just out of the goodness of their hearts—entries must be based on the company’s Headjack Unity API, a foundation for creating cross-platform VR apps which include 360 video.

The contest’s official rules require that each entry:

• Is created using the Headjack Template API
• Runs smoothly and without frame drops
• Is submitted during the Competition Period
• Is added to the Marketplace as a Public free template

Although not part of the official rules, Purple Pill says entries “Should have support for mobile VR.” The rules further say that entries can be submitted in the following way:

  1. Sign up for a free Headjack account on
  2. Create a VR Template using the Headjack API found at
  3. Upload the template to the Headjack Template Marketplace at
  4. as a Public free template

Starting today, participants can submit any number of entries but are only eligible to win one of the two cash prizes. Purple Pill says that the winners will be announced one month after the March 15th submission deadline.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Banana

    The current interfaces are mainly limited by the controllers. Once we have better controllers, we’ll start seeing more intuitive and unique interfaces.

    • Ed

      I’m not certain about that.. I think a great UI could probably hold up under multiple control schemes. I think it’s just that developers are still feeling out what works in VR. We have seen a lot of janky VR interfaces just as we’ve seen a lot of janky VR games.

      • Purple Pill

        Because we wanted Headjack to be cross-platform, we indeed struggled with making the (lack of) controls work in our initial interfaces. The only thing all headsets have in common is gaze.

        However, we’ve set things up in such a way that you can easily use different controls for different VR platforms. Each interface template also mentions for which platforms it is made, so it is also possible to create an interface purely for Vive for example.

  • Mark Lapasa

    If I read this correctly, this excludes Unreal Engine Developers?

    • Purple Pill

      We don’t try to exclude anyone, but we do use Unity for Headjack and not Unreal.

  • Ed

    If you can design an award-winning VR interface, I would think your work is worth (and can make) a lot more than $7500. Still, anything which raises the bar is good for all of us so I’m not complaining.

  • Trev Jt

    How about VR for inside cats that want to go outside? $7000 idea?!

  • Nick

    I think it’s great that they’re reaching out to a wider audience to push the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from a VR interface. Although we’re still very much in the infancy of Virtual Reality, I agree that most interfaces tend to be the boring plain floating panel.

    We’ve written a short blog about the future of design using VR. If anyone’s got a spare 2 minutes we’d appreciate the read:

    Keep up the good work guys.