James Oliver
Director, VRAC


Department: Mechanical Engineering
College: Engineering
Phone: 294-2649
Contact: , home page

James Oliver, Larry and Pam Pithan Professor of Engineering and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, currently serves as Director of Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC) – an interdisciplinary research center focused on emerging interface technologies serving 40 faculty, 160 graduate and 120 undergraduate student researchers, with more than $20M of contract research in process. Professor Oliver also directs ISU’s Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that complements the VRAC’s research mission by providing PhD, MS, and Professional Certificate degrees in HCI, with more than 150 students currently enrolled. At the VRAC, Oliver recently led fund raising, technical specification, and management of a $5M upgrade to the C6 – now the world’s highest resolution (100M pixel) fully immersive VR room.

Professor Oliver’s current research, teaching and economic development activities span a wide array of human computer interaction technologies, encompassing computer graphics, geometric modeling, virtual reality, and collaborative networks for applications in product development and complex system operation.

Previously, Professor Oliver served as Vice President of Product Development at Cognicity, Inc. a Minneapolis startup focused on Internet-based entertainment marketing. From 1997-2000 Oliver headed product development for Engineering Animation Inc. (NASDAQ:EAII, now part of Siemens PLM), where he led the creation of a unique Internet-based visual collaboration tool for supply chain integration.

Before his industrial leave, Professor Oliver had a successful ten-year career as an engineering professor, where he conducted research, taught, and administered a center focused on industrial applications of computer graphics and virtual reality. In addition to numerous industrial sponsors, Professor Oliver has secured funding for his research from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the US Army RDECOM. He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1986. Professor Oliver is a Fellow of the ASME, holds three U.S. patents, and is the recipient of numerous professional honors and awards.


Mixed Reality Work Guidance

Augmented Reality Prototyping

Markerless Tracking to Enable Augmented Reality on the Factory Floor

Factory of the Future Study

Immersive Development Self Organizing Map Enhancement

Immersive Design Center Support & Multidiscipline Design, Analysis & Optimization Visualization

Augmented Reality Interface to Facilitate Product Assembly Phase II:Generalization and Robustness

Visualization of Multidisciplinary Design Data Phase II

Development of Advanced Collaboration and Modular Methods to Facilitate Transition Between Concept and Detailed Design Stages

Augmented Reality Interface to Facilitate Product Assembly

Advanced, Live, Virtual, and Constructive Training Systems 2010

Development of a Collaborative Design Environment

Visualization of Multidisciplinary Design Data

Advanced Live, Virtual, and Constructive Training Systems

A Virtual Reality Interface for Product/Analysis Data Visualization

Collaborative Research: Constraint-based Compliant Mechanism Design using Virtual Reality as a Design Interface - REU

Virtual Reality Implementation Study

REU Site: Summer Program for Interdisciplinary Research and Education: Emerging Interface Technologies

Model Based Enterprise Improved Design Effectiveness through Next Generation Visualization (INDEV)

A Virtual reality Interface for Product/Analysis Data Visualization

Virutal Teleoperation for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

CyberInnovation Institute Industry Memberships

Commercialization of 3D Interactive Digit...


Virtual Teleoperation for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Advanced Systems Design Suite


Virtual Teleoperation for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles-Phase 2

Creation of the Advanced Systems Design Suite [with Chris Rupiper, Robin Friestad, Mike Ryken (Waterloo PEC), Josh Fielding, Brian Gilmore (Deere & Company), Al Sheidler, Jerry Duncan (Deere & Company]

Constraint-based Compliant Mechanism Design Using Virtual Reality

Real-time Immersive Design

C4 ISR Enterprise System Engineering

Preliminary Study of the Effect of Virtual Reality Technology on Societal Violence

Human Computer Interaction

Military Applications of Immersive Environments

Visualization of the Joint Battlespace

Interactive Visual Supercomputing for Engineering Applications

Watkins Glen Database

A Knowledge-integrated Virtual Reality Machining Laboratory for Innovative Undergraduate Education

Generalized Geometric Modeling for Turbomachinery Applications

Tread and Mold Design Visualization

Design Interface for Assessment of Human Interaction with Multi-Function Control Handles

Development and demonstration of a model vocational education program for assisting small manufacturing enterprises in adopting, implementing, operating, and managing new manufacturing technologies

Visualization of a Product Assembly Process

NURBS-Based Geometry for Integrated Structural Analysis

A Virtual Environment for Manufacturing Systems

NYI Award - Design and Manufacturing Automation

Algorithms for Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline Surface Model Development


Iowa State University's virtual reality lab greets visionary who set stage for cutting-edge research.

VRAC's director Jim Oliver has been appointed to a committee by President Leath that will conduct the search for ISU's new provost.

VRAC’s “Deere Day” Focuses on Impact

Software Offers 3-D Views Inside Body: BodyViz Software Coming To Iowa Medical Centers

Iowa State engineers develop 3-D software to give doctors, students a view inside the body

Virtual reality company developed by Iowa State engineers wins Pappajohn prize

High-tech tinkerer: Glen Galvin

Upgraded technology aids stadium viewing

CyberInnovation Institute could foster IT boom

Military Broadens Use of Virtual Reality

CyberInnovation project promotes research by consolidating disciplines

Computer-Aided Design, GIS and Graphics Applications Come Alive in World's Highest Resolution Virtual Reality Room

Iowa State Virtual Reality Room Reaches 100 Million Pixels

Education Install: 3D Simulation to the Max
The modernized C6 at Iowa State University sets new precedent for immersive virtual reality systems

The most impressive virtual reality environment in the world

ISU Upgrades Its Virtual Reality Center: Engineers Use Lab In Work With Air Force

Regents OK new information technology institute

Iowa State, Iowa join two Midwest universities to create high-speed data network

Mechdyne Set to Unveil World's Highest Resolution Immersive Virtual Reality Environment

Coming Soon: The Most Realistic Virtual Reality Room In The World

Iowa State to unveil the most realistic virtual reality room in the world

Virtual reality embraced by businesses

Use of virtual reality spreading in business world

2006 Visualization Challenge Winners: Informational Graphics

Foreign Delegates make stop at ISU during three-day tour of Iowa

VR room zooms in on 100M-pixel resolution

100 million pixels of virtual reality

The most realistic virtual reality room in the world

Computer forum features hall-of-fame inventor, student demonstrations

High-tech tour

Harkin views VR demo

Virtual reality room to undergo improvements

Air Force awards virtual reality center $2.8 million

ACM TechNews: Pushing Virtual Reality

Humans Interacting with Computers

Pushing Virtual Reality

"Unmanned military vehicles to be researched at Iowa State"

"James Oliver to Lead Virtual Reality Applications Center"

"ISU a leader in blending real with digital"

"Steel City to Tech City: Supercomputing 96 shows off the region's technological treasures"

"Virtual Reality Grows Up at ISU"