Seeing is believing: Don’t miss the ‘grandfather’ of VR at TNW Conference

Seeing is believing: Don’t miss the ‘grandfather’ of VR at TNW Conference
Seeing is believing: Don’t miss the ‘grandfather’ of VR at TNW Conference


Siôn Geschwindt

Story by


Siôn Geschwindt

Tom Furness will be speaking at TNW Conference, which takes place on June 15 & 16 in Amsterdam. If you want to experience the event (and say hi to our editorial team!), we’ve got something special for our loyal readers. Use the promo code READ-TNW-25 and get a 25% discount on your business pass for TNW Conference. See you in Amsterdam!

Since the world’s first (and rather crude) VR machine was invented in 1956, extended reality (XR) has evolved into some seriously advanced kit and is becoming increasingly common in workplaces and homes across the world. 

Few have contributed to the development of this technology more than American inventor, trailblazer, and professor Tom Furness. Celebrated as the ‘grandfather’ of VR and AR, Furness has spent 55 years pioneering the development of human interface technology. 

Fascinated with problem-solving from a young age, Furness joined the US Air Force in 1966, spending 23 years developing advanced cockpits and virtual interfaces for the Department of Defence. He later founded the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington, and then the Virtual World Society, an organisation dedicated to solving some of the world’s most pervasive problems using XR. 

Now, while I’ve heard of some pretty cool use cases of XR — like for teaching and surgery — I mainly associate the technology with gaming and other ‘fun’ immersive experiences. What I know less about, however, is how XR can be used to save the world.

“We are looking at how to put our art to work on solving some of the most existential problems of our time, such as climate change, disease, and water scarcity,” said Furness, in a video interview. “We need to wake up and become more aware of where our society is heading, and this [XR] is one of the tools we can use to foster that awareness.” 

Humans love a good story and seeing is believing, so the idea that XR can be used to create awareness and drive change doesn’t sound far-fetched at all. In fact, it sounds fascinating. Creating a better, more sustainable future is a mammoth task, so if XR can help, I’m here for it.  

At TNW Conference on June 15, Furness will deep dive into his journey at the bleeding edge of XR development, and explore how the technology can be harnessed for humanitarian applications, driving social change, and improving lives. See you there!

Furness’ insights on the humanitarian potential of XR are merely one attraction of TNW Conference. You can find more on the event agenda — and remember: for a 25% discount on business passes, use the promo code READ-TNW-25.

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