Dr. Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., Kenan Professor of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, received the 2010 IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Career Award at this year’s IEEE Virtual Reality conference, the premiere academic conference in the world on Immersive Virtual Environments, held in Waltham, Mass., March 20-24. The award honors Brooks for his lifetime contributions to virtual reality research and practice.
For more than 30 years, Brooks has led a laboratory that fosters scientific and technical advances in virtual reality, providing effective solutions to real user problems. His work in molecular modeling and docking applications led to many innovations in 3D interaction, especially in developing and using haptic feedback. His recent research has contributed to the understanding of design tradeoffs in immersive virtual reality systems that affect the quality of the user’s experience.
Born in 1931 at Chapel Hill, Brooks earned an A.B. in Physics from Duke. His Harvard Ph.D. was under Howard Aiken, architect of the first American programmable computer. In the 1950s, he was an architect of IBM’s Stretch and Harvest supercomputers, and coined the term computer architect. In the 1960s, he was IBM’s Corporate Project Manager for the System/360 development, including the System/360 computer family (“mainframe”) hardware, and the Operating System/360 software.
Brooks founded UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of computer science in 1964 and chaired it for 20 years. His best-known books are The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, (1975, 1995) and Computer Architecture: Concepts and Evolution (with G.A. Blaauw, 1997). The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist was published in March 2010. His team’s research at Carolina has been in interactive computer graphics: molecular graphics, 1965-1999; scientific visualization and manipulation, 1965-present; and virtual environments, 1970-present in collaboration with Henry Fuchs, Dinesh Manocha, and Mary C. Whitton. The team has done extensive study of both active and passive haptic displays. They developed a quite compelling “pit” demo; and for some years have used it to study quantitatively the relative effectiveness of various illusion factors on presence measures. (For example, latency matters a lot; photorealism very little.) Driving applications have been design of structures and submarines, scientific visualization, military training, and rehabilitation of patients with asymmetric gaits. He has advised 37 Ph.D. graduates.
Brooks has received the National Medal of Technology, and the Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the (British) Royal Academy of Engineering. He has served on the National Science Board and the Defense Science Board.
The IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Career Award was established in 2005 and is given each year to an individual to honor that person’s lifetime contribution to virtual and augmented reality. IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals.