BEING the Future

As Sputnik flew over the skies of the US, a young Tom Furness dreamed of other worlds.  He wasn’t dreaming of the virtual and augmented worlds that he would soon pioneer in parallel with his contemporary Ivan Sutherland and others. Tom dreamed of being an astronaut and inhabiting outer space.  The power of the child’s imagination and dreams still drives him today, especially with inspiring the next generation society where virtual worlds will be one with reality and the imagination.  Much of the product technology that is now being popularized with the announcements from Oculus Rift/Facebook, Magic Leap, Google Glass, MicroSoft HoloLens is based in part by early inventions and demonstrations that he and his protégés created over the decades.  As the Founding Director of the international family of Human Interface Technology Laboratories (HITlab) based at the University of Washington with satellite labs in New Zealand and Australia, Tom is exploring the next generation of augmenting human potential with profound and ubiquitous virtual world experiences.

“The power of virtual worlds is not in the achievement of technological capabilities, but in the creative possibilities of the human imagination that transform the limits of reality.”

The human side of innovation has driven Dr. Furness’s research since working in classified research programs with the US Air Force in the 1960’s. The early stages of the Super Cockpit focused on exploring how to extend human potential with the ability to seamlessly interface with technology.  His work spearheaded the first stereoscopic, head-mounted VR/AR, audio/visual displays. His team simulated superhuman feats of fighter pilots traveling at Mach 2+ under 6+ Gs of force under life and death scenarios.  This led to wearable technology patents in the 1990’s foreshadowing aug-mediated reality of the Google Glass and the virtual reality displays of Oculus and Sony, today.  His 20 year-old patent for retinal displays will still yet spark the next best thing in visual displays with almost limitless depth of field and field of view.  Yet these revolutionary inventions are just stepping stones for his vision of the future.

In his keynote presentation, Tom will take on the flight of his life’s achievements that have significantly defined the past, present and future of the augmented world experience. This will also spark our imagination in seeing new possibilities in the futures that we will make. Imagine a virtual learning living room in every home where we can inspire every child with the superpower of the imagination augmented by infinite virtual worlds. 


Tom Furness bio

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