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 FAQ: Who is this guy? Ivan Sutherland!
Posted on 2010-05-22 @ 16:26:55 by r00t

This, my friends, is Ivan Sutherland (new window), probably the most famous computer scientist you've barely (if at all) heard of...

Which is a crying shame, actually.

He, along with other pioneers in the field like Douglas Engelbart (new window), should be household names every user of every computer should know, for without these giants, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Apple, and everything else you take for granted when you use a computer...all of this would likely exist only in a much altered form. These individuals arguably gave birth to the modern idea of the computer.

I chose an image of (I believe) Mr. Sutherland wearing his "Sword of Damocles" (new window), which is "considered to be the first virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) head-mounted display (HMD) system", to represent the category of VR / AR (Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality) on my site, as a fitting tribute to a great man. The Sword of Damocles system was brought on-line (in the old sense of the term, meaning "started up or built") between 1966 and 1968, and contributed greatly to both fields of study.

Think about that the next time you watch James Cameron's Avatar (new window).

I should note a couple of things:

First, the Sword of Damocles was not the first HMD per-se; the Wikipedia article notes that Philco created a telepresence HMD much earlier, in 1961. Philco's system, however, relayed images from remote cameras, instead of graphics from a computer. During the same period, as referenced by this page (new window), a man named Morton Heilig (new window) was experimenting with a variety of "multisensory virtual experiences", and ended up patenting a design for an HMD in 1962 which "used wide field of view optics to view 3D photographic slides, and had stereo sound and an odor generator".

The original image used in generating the icon was downloaded from here (new window).

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