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October 24, 2003

Oliver named to lead VRAC

by Steve Karsjen, Ames Laboratory
James Oliver has been appointed director of the Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC), effective Jan. 1, 2004. He will replace James Bernard, who is stepping down after 13 years to pursue other interests.

Tom Barton, director of ISU's Institute for Physical Research and Technology (IPRT), of which VRAC is a leading member, cited Oliver's experience in both academia and private industry.

"In addition to his outstanding background in software development, Jim brings a valuable understanding of the needs of industry to an organization that strongly promotes industry interactions," Barton said.

Oliver is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the newly established graduate program in human computer interaction. Prior to that, he held numerous positions in the private sector. Most recently, Oliver was vice president of software development for Cognicity Inc., Minneapolis, and senior director of software development for Engineering Animation Inc. of Ames.

Researchers at VRAC develop computer interfaces that integrate virtual environments, wireless networking and third-generation user interface devices to amplify the creativity and productivity of people. VRAC is home to the C6, the world's first fully immersive six-sided virtual reality theater.

VRAC is involved in approximately $10 million in ongoing contract research with companies such as Deere & Co. and Procter & Gamble, and government agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

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