Tom Furness

Tom Furness


As a pioneer of human interface technology, Professor Furness’ contributions to the field have deservedly earned him the title of ‘grandfather’ of virtual reality. His research and development of new interfaces have laid the foundations for virtual reality as we know it today. Professor Furness spent 23 years working as a military scientist in the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air base, designing visual display systems for the cockpits of fighter aircraft. His research led him to the forefront of virtual reality with the development of the ‘Super Cockpit.’ Professor Furness set up the HIT Lab US at the University of Washington in 1989. Since then the HIT Lab US has become one of the world’s leading virtual reality research labs.

His outstanding credentials have won him worldwide recognition. In 1998 Professor Furness won the Discover Magazine Award, an award many regard as equivalent to winning an Oscar for Science and Engineering, for his invention of the Colour Virtual Retinal Display (VRD). The VRD scans images directly on to the eye and can help people with some forms of blindness to see. It has also been utilised for phobia treatment and to help alleviate pain for burn victims.

Professor Furness is a Professor of Industrial Engineering and an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering, Aeronautics/Astronautics and Technical Communications at the University of Washington and the Founding Director of the HIT Lab US. He has a B.S in Electrical Engineering from Duke University and a PhD in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of Southhampton, England.

Research interests

Professor Furness’ current research involves the comprehensive development of affordable virtual interface technologies for industry and consumers with applications in medical imaging, virtual protyping, protheses for the handicapped, virtual classrooms and televirtuality. He wants to build a ‘Super cockpit for the mind’.


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