Thomas A. Furness



Phone: (206) 543-4608
Fax: (206) 685-3072




Dr. Furness joined the University of Washinton in September 1989.  He is a Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, and the founding Director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the Washington Technology Center.  Dr. Furness holds the following degrees:

  • Electrical Engineering from Duke University.
  • Ph.D in Engineering and Apllied Science from the University of Southampton, England.1981.


Dr. Furness is a pioneer in the development of interfaces between humans and complex machines.  He has been a crusader for over the past 25 years for building aircraft cockpits which take into account the perceptual organization of the human.  Most of his work has centered on the concept of virtual interface technologies which prove a circumambience of three dimensional spatial information to the human using the visual, auditory and tactile sensory modalities.

  • Prior to joining the University of Washington, Dr. Furness served as the Chief of the Visual Display Systems Branch, Human Engineering Division of the Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory (USAF), Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  While in this position, Dr. Furness developed and evaluated visually-coupled systems and virtual interface concepts to improve the communication of information and control functions between the pilot.  In 1986 he organized the Super Cockpit program, for the Air Force and served as the program director until leaving for the University of Washington.  Dr. Furness has received the Air Force Systems Command Scientific Achievement Award and the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
  • Dr. Furness has lectured widely and written numerous technical articles associated with human interaction with complex machines and the use of virtual interfaces.  He has made a number of television appearances including NOVA as well as CBS, BBC, CNN, ABC, and NBC science programs.  He is a member of the Human Factors Society, Association of Computing Machinery, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the Society for Information Display.
  • Dr. Furness is co-editor with Dr. Thomas Sheridan at MIT of a new journal entitled: PRESENCE: The Journal of Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, published by the MIT press beginning in 1992.   Dr. Furness's current research involves the comprehensive development of affordable virtual interface technologies for industry and consumers with applications in medical imaging, virtual prototyping, prostheses for the handicapped, virtual classrooms and televirtuality.