Our Founder

TOM FURNESS

Tom is the Founder of the Virtual World Society and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

He is a Professor and International Director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington, University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and University of Tasmania (Australia). His career spans 52 years of working on virtual reality and associated technologies.

Widely known as the "Grandfather of Virtual Reality", we're excited to embark on more VR adventures with Tom.

Board of Directors

CHRIS STAPLETON

Christopher Stapleton, VWS Co-founder & President of Simiosys, converges the next-generation of technology, techniques and talent to melt the boundaries between compelling reality and the infinite imagination using the emerging conventions of Virtual Worlds.

His background is designing and producing for mega theme parks, film, television and the Broadway stage. He has served on the faculty of Technical University of Munich, University of Central Florida, University of Rochester.

His clients include: HTC Vive, Canon Inc., Universal, Disney, Nickelodeon, Sanrio, Wanda, Sentosa, IBM. Sponsors include: NASA, NSF, DoEd, DoD, Space Florida. He received his MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts majoring in design for the stage and screen.

MARK BILLINGHURST

Mark Billinghurst is Professor of Human Computer Interaction at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia, and Chief Scientist of Super Ventures.

He earned a PhD in 2002 from the University of Washington and researches innovative computer interfaces that explore how virtual and real worlds can be merged, publishing over 300 papers in topics such as wearable computing, Augmented Reality and mobile interfaces. Prior to joining the University of South Australia he was Director of the HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury and he has previously worked at British Telecom, Nokia, Google and the MIT Media Laboratory.

His MagicBook project, was winner of the 2001 Discover award for best entertainment application, and he received the 2013 IEEE VR Technical Achievement Award for contributions to research and commercialization in Augmented Reality.

LINDA JACOBSON

Linda loves tackling practical problems with XR solutions, playing table tennis, and learning to play ukulele. Solutions that improve health and wellness, especially in eldercare, are her primary focus as a business developer, producer, and writer.

Claims to fame: co-founding editor of Wired; world’s first VR Evangelist (for Silicon Graphics); one of the first live mo-cap performance artists (touring with D’Cückoo); and author of books *Garage Virtual Reality* and *CyberArts* and hundreds of trade magazine articles.

Nowadays Linda leads an enterprise XR development team and manages immersive software projects. Mission possible: let’s use XR to transform the experience and perception of aging!

JACKI MORIE

With degrees in both art and computer science, Dr. Morie has 25 years experience in developing innovative techniques for rich, emotionally evocative virtual reality (VR) environments.

As part of this pioneering work, she invented a scent collar to bring the emotional power of smell to immersive experiences, and developed new types of functions for VR, such as connections to multiple sensor and feedback systems to make VR more effective.

Dr. Morie spent 13 years as a Sr. Research Scientist at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), which she helped found. While there, she created novel VR telehealth care activities using her deep understanding of art, computer animation and human behavior to enhance patient engagement with these programs.

She has been expanding her VR research to include neuroscience and avatars, developing methods to determine how such technologies can effect positive change in those who use them.

BRENDA LAUREL

Brenda Laurel has worked as a designer and researcher in interactive media since 1976, from Atari to Apple to Art Center College of Design and California College of the Arts, and now as Principal of Neogaian Interactive. She co-designed and produced the ground-breaking VR piece, Placeholder (1993) and founded Purple Moon (games for girls) in 1996.

In 2015 she received the Trailblazer Award from Indiecade and was awarded the Nextant Prize from the Virtual World Society in 2016.

TROND NILSEN

Trond works at the intersection of AR / VR, games, education, and medicine, starting in 2003 at the HITLab NZ. Today, he is Director of Development at Virtual Therapeutics and Co-Founder of the Seattle Immersive Technology Association, a non-profit dedicate to the AR/VR community in the Seattle area.

Trond is a strong believer in the power of hackathons and other events that encourage people to get their hands dirty building things in Virtual Worlds, and has helped organized over 10 events in Seattle and around the world.

A New Zealand native and global citizen, Trond looks forward to the vast expansion of places to visit, meet people, and explore that wide distribution of Virtual World tools and hardware will allow.

CRAIG PARIETTI

Craig gives back through involvement with non-profits, focused especially to education. He helped return a failing school to profitability while ensuring a diverse student body plus succeeded with a major capital campaign in the months following 9/11. Craig was truly inspired by a talk given by Tom Furness, joining the Board of the Virtual World Society in 2017.

As a determined leader and passionate business partner, Craig plays on underdog teams that exceed expectations and grab #1 share in rapid growth markets -- HTC (VR, smartphones), T-Mobile (wireless, Blackberry), Applied Precision (semiconductor test, acquired by GE), and HP (start-up division, test and measurement). He earned a Harvard MBA (Finance and Marketing) and Northwestern B.S. Engineering.

Craig Parietti & Partners provides strategy, finance, and marketing expertise for consumer-facing technology companies, with a focus on VR/AR, AI, and mobile. Customers include Razer and leading companies in VR (hardware, gaming, filmmakers).

ALISON RABY

Alison is co-founder and inclusion advocate at Digital Raign. She is a connector, facilitator, and serial entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience. She is a Board member for The Virtual World Society and served on the Wisdom 2.0 early development team.

Her current focus is on diversity/inclusion, socially conscious business, and research on augmented mindfulness through emergent tech. Alison regularly donates her time to a number of volunteer organizations such as Emerging Women, It’s Time Network, ARVR Women among others.

Senior Advisors

STACY WHITTLE

Stacy is a Washington, DC based actor/producer, biz dev guru, former international development worker and proud mother of two awesome teenage boys, Tamer and Emilio.

She is fascinated with how emerging technologies can be used to make this world a better place. She has lived in Bahrain, Argentina, Spain and Mexico, has worked in more than dozen countries and speaks Spanish fluently.

Stacy holds a Master's in Public Administration from the Middleberry Institute of International Studies in Monterey and a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology from the George Washington University.

GIA NIKOLOVA

Gia brings great amount of industry experience having led some of the most exciting cross-enterprise initiatives for Bank of America and GE Software, while keeping up with newest technologies and trends. Gia's curiosity, enthusiasm and startup attitude are the catalysts for products, where she can swirl her interests, AR/VR creativity and technology expertise.

She is focused on AR/VR products and services, often mingling with the entrepreneur & startup crowd. She has helped companies with their go-to-market & growth strategies as it simply brings happiness and feels personal to contribute to someone's success.

She is a proud VWS ambassador and is behind the VR for Education Summit ImmerED2018 to take place in Los Angeles, CA. Gia has truly found her passion in promoting VR for the betterment of humanity.

JAMES HANUSA

James is a cultural strategist and organizer specializing in cross sector collaboration. he brings 20+ years in management roles across enterprise technology and creative community. his personal path led to exploring the edges of developments in silicon valley, from sustainability, to social justice, social media to conscious evolution, and now into the frontiers of emerging technology.

James’ professional background includes business development and technology partnerships for software companies and an interactive agency. He has deep expertise in urban economic development, social web, as well as corporate social responsibility based on years initiative creation in the Bay Area

EVA HOERTH

Eva has been working in VR for 3 years as a design researcher and community builder, and now deep into exploring how the brain works so she can better understand how we can ethically design for virtual reality experiences.

While the technology is growing increasingly impressive, Eva wants to make sure that we put humans first, tech second. Eva is most drawn to VR because no one knows what they're doing, and that's exciting because we can all come together to make history.