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NIU hosts 'father of virtual reality'

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 1:03 p.m. CDT

DeKALB — Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, will serve as the keynote speaker for NIU ’s two-week Celebrating Excellence event. The inaugural celebration is planned from Sunday, April 14, through Sunday, April 28.

Lanier will speak at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. A book signing will follow in the Capitol Room.

“It is important to recognize the achievements of NIU’s students, faculty and staff, and having a prominent thought-leader like Jaron Lanier come to campus provides an added benefit to them while generating greater awareness for the wonderful things happening here at NIU,” said Bradley Bond, dean of the NIU Graduate School and associate vice president for Graduate Studies.

Known as the “father of virtual reality” and one of the most influential thinkers of our time, Lanier is the best-selling author of “You Are Not a Gadget.”

For decades, he has drawn on his expertise and experience as a computer scientist, composer and musician and digital media pioneer to predict the revolutionary ways in which technology has transformed our culture. In 2009, Lanier received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE, the preeminent international engineering society. In 2010, Time Magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He also has been named among the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines as well as one of history’s greatest inventors by Encyclopedia Britannica.

A pioneer in virtual reality – a term he either coined or popularized – Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams creating VR applications for medicine, design and numerous other fields. He is partner architect at Microsoft Research.

His new book – “Who Owns the Future?” – is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy.

Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries, from media to medicine to manufacturing, we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow.

“Jaron Lanier embodies all that NIU is recognizing during our Celebrating Excellence events,” said Julia Spears, director of NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. “We are excited to be able to bring a speaker like Jaron to campus just weeks before the release of his new book.”

Celebrating Excellence highlights the accomplishments and contributions of NIU students, faculty and staff to the university’s mission of promoting excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service during the academic year.

For more information, call 815-753-8154 or email engage@niu.edu.

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