Capstone Speaker

Friday, October 24:

"What I like and Don't Like About the State of Visualization Today"
Jim Blinn, Microsoft

"Visualization is good. Visualization is valuable. Let's have more visualization."

Jim Blinn, 1991


Jim Blinn is a big fan of data visualization and a long-time believer. He commented on the study of visualization in an article during the early days of visualization research while he was at Caltech in 1991. At Vis 2003, Jim will spend an entire week participating at the conference to get a Blinn's-eye view of the state of visualization today. He will attend technical presentations, workshops, and panels; visit commercial exhibitions and academic demonstrations; and host multiple "Jim Blinn's Corner, Live!" discussions with students and researchers (Tuesday, 9:30 - 11:00 am, Wednesday, 9:30 - 11:00 am, and Thursday, 9:30 - 11:00 am). Jim's personal experience at Vis 2003, together with his training and knowledge of the field, will be the foundation of this Capstone address at Vis 2003.

Jim Blinn head shot


Jim Blinn had a 35 year long career in Computer Graphics starting in 1968 while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. In 1974 he became a graduate student at the University of Utah where he did research in realistic rendering and received a Ph.D in 1977. The results of this research have become standard techniques in today's computer animation systems. They include realistic specular lighting models, bump mapping and environment/reflection mapping.

In 1977 he moved to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he produced computer graphics animations for various space missions to Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. These animations were shown on many news broadcasts as part of the press coverage of the missions and were the first exposure to computer animation for many people in the industry today. Also at JPL he produced animation for Carl Sagan's PBS series COSMOS and for the Annenberg/CPB funded project "The Mechanical Universe", a 52 part telecourse to teach college level physics.

During these productions he developed several other standard computer graphics techniques including work in cloud simulation, displacement mapping, and a modeling scheme variously called blobbies or metaballs. In 1987 he began a regular column in the IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications journal where he describes mathematical techniques used in computer graphics. He has just published his third volume of collected articles from this series. From 1989 to 1995 he worked at Caltech producing animations to teach High School level mathematics.

In 1995 he joined Microsoft Research as a Graphics Fellow. He is a MacArthur Fellow, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Otis Parsons School of Design and has received both the Siggraph Achievement Award (1983) and the Stephen Coons Award (1999).