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Virtual reality pioneer to speak at Lyon College 2019 commencement

A virtual reality pioneer and winner of the Discover Award will serve as keynote speaker during Lyon College’s 147th commencement ceremonies slated for May 11 on the campus.

Dr. Thomas A. Furness III, known by many as the “grandfather of virtual reality,” is a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. He will share life lessons from his experience as a military scientist, professor, inventor, entrepreneur, and VR pioneer.

His speech is titled, “Failures, Successes, and Rockets.”

Furness was given the Discover Award in 1998 for a patented technology called virtual retinal display, which draws bitmap images directly onto the retina of the eye so users see what appears to be a conventional television-like display floating in front of them.

As founder of the Virtual World Society, Furness is among scientists dedicated using virtual reality to solve pervasive problems in the world. Television programs across the globe have featured the professor and pioneer, who holds 19 patents in advanced sensor, display, and interface technologies.

Furness, widely known for his innovation in human interface technology and virtual and augmented reality, is also founder of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab) at UW. In addition, he is founder and international director of the HIT Lab New Zealand at the University of Canterbury and the HIT Lab Australia at the University of Tasmania.

He served a combined 23 years as an U.S. Air Force officer and civilian scientist at the Armstrong Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where he developed advanced cockpits and virtual interfaces for the Department of Defense. He served as the Chief of the Visual Display Systems Branch and Director of the Super Cockpit Program until he joined UW in 1989.

Furness is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and received the IEEE VR Career Award for his lifetime contributions to the fields of virtual and augmented reality. He also received the Augmented World Expo’s first lifetime achievement award for his 50-year contribution to the VR and AR industries.

Furness earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Duke University and Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of Southampton, England.

Lyon’s commencement ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. at Couch Garden on the Lyon Campus in Batesville.