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Mary Whitton and David Luebke
March 23, 2021

The two major awards at the upcoming 2021 IEEE Virtual Reality Conference will honor individuals with long-standing connections to UNC Computer Science, retired Research Professor Mary C. Whitton and Research Professor and NVIDIA Vice President of Graphics Research David P. Luebke. 

Whitton will receive the 2021 IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Career Award for her lifetime contributions to the field, while Luebke will receive the 2021 IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Technical Achievement Award, given annually for a seminal achievement in virtual and augmented reality. 

Mary Whitton

Whitton is being recognized for her lifetime contributions to “the technologies, techniques, and theory that enable virtual and mixed reality systems and applications to better achieve their intended goals.” 

Whitton has been undertaking research in interactive 3D computer graphics and virtual and mixed reality since 1976. She founded two successful graphics hardware companies in 1978 and 1986 and joined the Department of Computer Science in 1994. At UNC, she co-led the Effective Virtual Environments (EVE) research group for 20 years, driving cutting-edge research in areas including computer graphics, virtual reality, and mixed reality data exploration. In addition to her research, Whitton has mentored generations of doctoral students and held leadership roles with ACM SIGGRAPH and IEEE Virtual Reality. In recent years, she has worked with ACM committees to preserve computer graphics history.

David Luebke

Luebke is being recognized with the Technical Achievement Award for his “research and leadership at the intersection of rendering algorithms, display technology, and human perception” that has “advanced the state of virtual reality across topics as diverse as real-time rendering, low-latency display, foveated resolution, redirected walking, haptics, and focus-supporting displays.” Over a career in both academia and industry, Luebke has led research projects related to graphics rendering, display hardware, and even the use of neural networks to generate photorealistic imagery.

Luebke co-founded NVIDIA Research in 2006 and currently serves as vice president of graphics research. Prior to joining the faculty, Luebke also earned a doctorate in computer science from UNC in 1998.

Established in 2005, the IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Awards program recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the community. The awards are given annually to recipients selected by a vote of the Awards committee. This year’s committee was chaired by Henry Fuchs, Federico Gil Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at UNC, who abstained from voting due to professional connections with multiple nominees.

The 2021 IEEE Virtual Reality Conference will take place from March 27 to April 3. For more information about the recipients and awards, please see the announcement from IEEE VGTC.