Tom-FurnessIIITom Furness has been working in virtual reality longer than anyone else on the planet, and he’s starting a new phase of his legendary career. He’s starting to build a coalition of content creators and financial backers through the Virtual World Society to be able to transform living rooms into classrooms. With the support of a network of subscribers, he wants to build the infrastructure to support the production of educational VR experiences that activate our conscience, enrich our minds, and connect hearts together in order to solve real world problems.

In my first interview with Tom last November, he only briefly mentioned his vision of the Virtual World Society. But I was able to catch up with him again at the IEEE VR conference just after he had just won a Lifetime Achievement Award awarded through the IEEE VGTC publication, which publishes the IEEE VR conference proceedings. He gave a speech where he shared his vision of what he sees as the ultimate potential of VR to educate, cultivate empathy, and connect families across generations to transfer the wisdom of elders to the youth as they expand their minds with virtual world explorations.


Tom was one of the original VR pioneers who was first responsible for bringing augmented and virtual reality display technology into the Air Force starting in 1966. He then started the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington to research applications of VR in education, medicine, and social sciences, as well as pioneering the virtual retinal display that is part of the underlying lightfield technology at Magic Leap.

In this next phase of his career, he’s build a coalition of like-minded VR enthusiasts who want to produce educational & connective experiences that help solve real-world problems. The Virtual World Society is still in it’s early phases of development, but they want to spread the word to like-minded individuals who are interested in supporting the production of VR experiences that enrich our hearts and minds. You keep posted by signing up for their email list.

After conducting this interview with Tom in South Carolina, I’m pleased to announce that the Virtual World Society will be sponsoring the production of the Voices of VR podcast for the next month. There’s a lot of overlap between the mission of the Voices of VR to explore the ultimate potential of VR, and how the Virtual World Society wants to enable the creation of these types of mind and heart-expanding experiences.

I’ll continue to explore the story and development of the Virtual World Society within the content of my podcast audio introductions, but I’d encourage you to have a listen to Tom’s vision in this interview. He’s been a pioneer in the virtual reality space going on 50 years now, and so he’s got an inspiring message to activate our conscience, connect our hearts and minds, and produce VR experiences that help make the world a better place.

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