Jaron Lanier


Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author. His current appointments include Scholar at Large for Live Labs, Microsoft Corporation and Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeley. His long-procrastinated book is forthcoming from Random House.

Computer science:

Lanier’s interests include biomimetic information architectures, user interfaces, heterogeneous scientific simulations, advanced information systems for medicine, and computational approaches to the fundamentals of physics. He collaborates with a wide range of scientists in fields related to these interests.

Lanier's name is also often associated with Virtual Reality research. Indeed, he did coin the term 'Virtual Reality' and in the early 1980s founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. In the late 1980s he lead the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays, for both local and wide area networks, as well as the first "avatars", or representations of users within such systems. While at VPL, he and his colleagues developed the first implementations of virtual reality applications in surgical simulation, vehicle interior prototyping, virtual sets for television production, and assorted other areas. He led the team that developed the first widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual reality applications.

From 1997 to 2001, Lanier was the Chief Scientist of Advanced Network and Services, which contained the Engineering Office of Internet2, and served as the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion Initiative, a coalition of research universities studying advanced applications for Internet2. The Initiative demonstrated the first prototypes of tele-immersion in 2000 after a three-year development period. From 2001 to 2004 he was Visiting Scientist at Silicon Graphics Inc., where he developed solutions to core problems in telepresence and tele-immersion.

Lanier received an honorary doctorate from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2006, was the recipient of CMU's Watson award in 2001, and was a finalist for the first Edge of Computation Award in 2005.

Primary Appointments:

2006- Scholar at Large, Microsoft Corp.
2006- Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeley
2005-2008 Columnist, Discover Magazine
2004- Fellow, International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley
2003-2005 Visiting Scientist, Silicon Graphics
2002-2004 Jones Center Fellow, Wharton School, UPenn
2002- Member, Science Board, Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center
2002- Science Advisor, Linden Lab (Maker of Second Life)
2002- Visiting Faculty, Dartmouth College (Surgical Simulation
And Tele-Medicine)
1999-2002 Chief Scientist, Eyematic Interfaces (IP and most of team
now at Google)
1997-2001 Chief Scientist, Advanced Network And Services (Parent
organization at the time of the Engineering Office Of
1997-2000 Lead Scientist, National Tele-Immersion Initiative (1st
Tele-I Implementation)
1997-2001 Visiting Scholar, Columbia University
1996-2001 Visiting Artist, Interactive Telecommunications Program,
1993-1996 Recording Artist, Polygram
1990-1991 Visiting Professor, San Francisco State University
1984-1990 CEO, VPL Research (1st Multiperson VR, immersive avatars, and Commercial VR Products)
1983-1984 Researcher, Atari Labs
1980-1983 Independent Video Game Developer
1979-1980 Student Researcher On NSF-Funded Project On Digital
Graphical Simulations For Learning At New Mexico State
1974-1978 Independent goat milk and cheese provider (paid for my
undergraduate education this way!)

Some additional Past Appointments (Incomplete list):

Research Fellow, Center For Business Innovation, Ernst And Young
Fellow, World Economic Forum,
Fellow, Macarthur Foundation Roundtables
Member, Board Of Advisors, Meaningful Machines (Pioneers of Statistical Machine Text Translation)

Silicon Valley Lineages:

• Paracomp, a spin-off from VPL Research, Inc. (which was founded by Jaron) merged with MacroMind to become MacroMedia, which then merged with Adobe.
• Medical Media Systems, another VPL Research Inc. spin-off, became Medical Metrix Systems, and then M2S Inc., a major player in medical imaging software controlled by AIG and Pfizer.
• The PowerGlove was a major toy licensed to Mattel Toys from VPL Research Inc.
• VPL Research Inc. was acquired by Sun Microsystems.
• Eyematic Interfaces, where Lanier was Chief Scientist, became Nevengineering, which was wholly acquired by Google. It is now the visual pattern recognition unit of Google.


Lanier is a well-known author and speaker. He writes and speaks on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technological practices, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. His lecture client list includes most of the well-known high technology firms as well as many others in the energy, automotive, and financial services industries. “Jaron’s World” was his monthly column in Discover Magazine, devoted to his own wide ranging ideas and research. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, The Sciences, Wired Magazine (where he was a founding contributing editor), and Scientific American. He has edited special "future" issues of SPIN and Civilization magazines. He is one of the 100 “remarkable people” of the Global Business Network.


As a musician, Lanier has been active in the world of new "classical" music since the late seventies. He is a pianist and a specialist in unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments of Asia. He maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played rare instruments in the world. Lanier has performed with artists as diverse as Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton, Vernon Reid, Terry Riley, Duncan Sheik, Pauline Oliveros, and Stanley Jordan. Current recording projects include his "acoustic techno" duet with Sean Lennon and an album of duets with flautist Robert Dick.

He also writes chamber and orchestral music. Current commissions include an opera that will premier in Busan, South Korea. Recent commissions include: “Earthquake!”, a ballet which premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in April, 2006; “Little Shimmers” for the TroMetrik ensemble, which premiered at ODC in San Francisco in April, 2006; “Daredevil” for the ArrayMusic chamber ensemble, which was premiered in Toronto in 2006; A concert length sequence of works for orchestra and virtual worlds (including "Canons for Wroclaw", "Khaenoncerto", "The Egg", and others) celebrating the 1000th birthday of the city of Wroclaw, Poland, premiered in 2000; A triple concerto, "The Navigator Tree", commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Composers Forum, premiered in 2000; and "Mirror/Storm", a symphony commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and premiered in 1998. “Continental Harmony”, a PBS special that documented the development and premiere of “The Navigator Tree” won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. His CD "Instruments of Change" was released on Point/Polygram in 1994.

Lanier's work with Asian instruments can be heard extensively on the soundtrack to "Three Seasons" (1999), which was the first film ever to win both the Audience and Grand Jury awards at the Sundance Film Festival. He and Mario Grigorov are currently scoring a new film, “The Third Wave,” which will premier at Sundance in 2007. He is at work with Terry Riley on a collaborative opera to be titled "Bastard, the First."

Lanier has also pioneered the use of Virtual Reality in musical stage performance with his band Chromatophoria, which has toured around the world as a headline act in venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival. He plays virtual instruments and uses real instruments to guide events in virtual worlds.

Visual Art:

Lanier's paintings and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe. In 2002 he co-created (with Philippe Parreno) an exhibit illustrating how aliens might perceive humans for the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. In 1994 he directed the film "Muzork" under a commission from ARTE Television. His 1983 "Moondust" (which he programmed in 6502 assembly) is generally regarded as the first art video game, and the first interactive music publication. He has presented installations in New York City, including the "Video Feedback Waterbed" and the "Time-accelerated Painting", which was situated in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage. His first one man show took place in 1997 at the Danish Museum for Modern Art in Roskilde. He helped make up the gadgets and scenarios for the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report by Steven Spielberg.

Celebrity fluff:

In 2005 Lanier was selected as one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines. The Encyclopaedia Britannica includes him in its list of history's 300 or so greatest inventors. The nation of Palau has issued a postage stamp in his honor. Various television documentaries have been produced about him, such as “Dreadlocks and Digital Dreamworlds” by Tech TV in 2002. The 1992 movie Lawnmower Man was in part based on him and his early laboratory- he was played by Piers Brosnan. He has appeared on national television many times, on shows such as "The News Hour," "Nightline," and "Charlie Rose," and has been profiled multiple times on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Selected books with chapters or major sections devoted to Jaron Lanier’s work:

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own by Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee, Random House, September, 2007

Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg, Crown, January, 2007

Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau, Doubleday, May, 2005

Technomanifestos: Visions from the Information Revolutionaries
by Adam Brate, Texere, June, 2002

Arguing A.I. : The Battle For Twenty-First-Century Science
by Sam Williams, Atrandom, January, 2002

Clock Of The Long Now by Stewart Brand, Basic Books, April, 2000

The Virtuoso: Face To Face With 40 Extraordinary Talents
By Ken Carbone, Stewart Tabori & Chang, April, 1999 (Here's CNN's report on it.)

Dreads by Francesco Mastalia, Artisan, January, 1999

Digerati: Encounters With The Cyber Elite by John Brockman, Hardwired, October, 1996

Virtual Reality by Howard Rhiengold, Summit Books, July, 1991