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Aug. 20: Technology Review Names Carnegie Mellon Alumnus Johnny Lee One of the World's Top Innovators Under Age 35


Byron Spice                            

Technology Review Names Carnegie Mellon Alumnus Johnny Lee
One of the World's Top Innovators Under Age 35

Johnny LeePITTSBURGH—Johnny Lee, whose creative uses of the Nintendo Wii remote have made his instructional videos a YouTube sensation, has been recognized by Technology Review magazine as one of the world's top 35 innovators under the age of 35.
Lee, 28, received his Ph.D. from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science this spring and is now working as a researcher in Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group. A panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review selected him for the magazine's prestigious TR35 honors from more than 300 nominees.
While a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, Lee explored novel approaches that made technology less expensive and more accessible to the public. He developed a digital whiteboard that costs thousands of dollars less than existing commercial solutions, transformed a standard television into an immersive virtual realty (VR) display using a few inexpensive components, implemented a cheap calibration system for advanced projector applications and helped thousands of filmmakers by sharing his design for an inexpensive camera stabilizer.
"I have always been in awe of his ability to create a wide spectrum of amazing projects using very few resources," said Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon who was named to the TR35 list in 2007. "He is like 'MacGyver' as a full-time inventor. The world would be a better place if there were more people like him."
Millions have viewed YouTube videos about Lee's projects, and his "Head Tracking for Desktop VR" was nominated in the best instructional video category of this year's YouTube Awards.
"Johnny's creativity is truly amazing," said Dan Siewiorek, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "He has the uncanny ability to look at problems from new perspectives and create simple, low cost solutions. His Ph.D. thesis was composed of one creative technology after another, many of which could have been the foundation for start-up companies."
Lee and the other TR35 winners for 2008 will be featured in the September issue of Technology Review and will be honored at the EmTech08 Conference, Sept. 23–25 in Cambridge, Mass. Additional information about past and present TR35 winners and judges is available at