David A. Smith (computer scientist)

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David Alan Smith (born February 11, 1957 in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) is an American computer scientist, inventor and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CTO of Croquet Corporation.[1] He previously was the chairman of Gensym, one of the first public artificial intelligence companies, and later was Chief Innovation Officer and a Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin Corporation, leading their augmented reality and virtual reality work.[2]

Smith has been driving world class innovation for more than 35 years, collaborating with everyone from Alan Kay and Doug Engelbart to Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. Recognized as one of the pioneers of virtual reality and augmented reality, he developed the world’s first 3D real-time adventure/shooter game, The Colony; he created the visualization software behind James Cameron’s The Abyss, and sold 10’s of millions of games and applications. Smith has founded 7 companies, including Virtus Corporation, where he created Virtus Walkthrough in 1990, the first real-time 3D PC design tool.[3][4]

Smith invented 3D portals and co-invented the core technology behind Croquet. He has 32 patents to his name in 3D, augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Smith was recognized for his pioneering work in VR by giving the Keynote address at IEEE VR 2017 in Los Angeles.[5]

In May 2018, Smith founded Croquet Corporation to build a software system for creating multiuser digital experiences on the web. It lets developers build real time multiuser apps without writing a single line of server code, or deploying or managing any servers. Croquet consists of a JavaScript library that grants access to its global network of public reflectors.

University years[edit]

Smith graduated from the University of Chicago in 1981 with a BA in mathematics.[6] At the time, the university didn’t offer a computer science program, but he had an opportunity to pursue his interest in artificial intelligence by working in a brain research lab.

Thermo Electron[edit]

Upon receiving two job offers after graduation, Smith began his programming life as a Corporate Analyst working for founder and CEO George N. Hatsopoulos and his wife Daphne at Thermo Electron Corporation. Smith worked to develop Cube, one of the first collaborative programs ever built. Cube was an enterprise-wide multi-user multidimensional hierarchical spreadsheet program written in the APL programming language. Hatsopoulos used the program to run the company’s various divisions, where spreadsheets from each of the division presidents would collate into a master spreadsheet for Hatsopoulos to better understand his business. Cube ran on a single IBM 4341 mainframe, which made the collaboration possible, because networking on personal computers -– and even personal computers themselves -– hadn’t yet proliferated in the corporate world. These learnings about programming languages and collaboration would form an important foundation for Smith’s career.

After leaving Thermo Electron in 1983, Smith returned to the Special Projects Laboratory of the company in 1984, to work for Stelianos Pezaris (Sutherland-Pezaris headmount and Pezaris Array Multiplier), where he designed a process control application and helped to design a multiprocessor distributed controller architecture for a robotic circuit board plating system.


In 1982-83, Smith went to work for Richard Greenblatt and Lucia Vaina as a programmer for Softrobotics, an affiliate of Lisp Machines, Inc. where he worked to develop an expert system for the diagnosis of brain damage using an Apple II as the front end to a Lisp Machine. It was here that Smith started his foray into designing and programming game-like interface designs.

Thomas Lord Research Center[edit]

Smith then moved to the Thomas Lord Research Center in 1986 as a staff scientist working on intelligent object manipulation using robotic tactile sensors, pneumo-elastic and mechanical hands. There he developed a telepresence system using stereo-optics and a dataglove controlling a Puma-560 robot equipped with the pneumo-elastic hand.

The Colony[edit]

Smith was the pioneer in building 3D applications for the Apple Macintosh. In 1983, Smith heard about the imminent launch of a new Apple computer, and paid a $1,000 deposit at a Boston computer store to reserve the first unit that would arrive after launch. With his new Apple Macintosh, Smith created The Colony, the very first real time 3D interactive adventure/shooter game and precursor to today's first-person game worlds, which launched in 1987. The game won the "Best Adventure Game of the Year" award from Macworld Magazine.

Virtus Corporation[edit]

In 1989, Smith used the technologies developed for the game to create a virtual set and virtual camera system that was used by James Cameron for the movie The Abyss. Based upon this experience, Smith founded Virtus Corporation in 1990 and developed Virtus Walkthrough, the first real-time 3D design application for personal computers, which won the first “Breakthrough Product of the Year” from MacUser magazine.

Red Storm Entertainment[edit]

Smith met Tom Clancy when Clancy discovered Smith’s game The Colony and became an avid player. Clancy became Smith’s first outside investor in Virtus Walkthrough. Smith and Clancy wanted to build games together, so they co-founded Red Storm Entertainment in 1995. Together they launched the successful Rainbow Six game franchise, and later sold their company to Ubisoft.

Timeline Computer Entertainment[edit]

Between 1999 and 2001, Smith was CEO of Michael Crichton’s game company, Timeline Computer Entertainment.[7]


Smith’s early work on the Croquet project led to the formation of Teleplace in 2005, where he served as CTO until 2010. The company built virtual workspaces used by companies, universities, organizations and U.S. government agencies, such as the Air Force, Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs for training and collaboration. The commercial product is now called Immersive Terf.[8]


Smith served as Chairman of the Board at Gensym between 2004 and 2007. He worked to restructure the public company, by hiring a new CEO and successfully exiting through a sale to Versata.

Lockheed Martin[edit]

In 2010, Smith joined Lockheed Martin as chief innovation officer for their Training and Logistics Solutions. Smith was responsible for inventing new technologies, new business opportunities, and developing a culture of innovation throughout the organization.

In 2013, he was a Senior Fellow at Lockheed, where he focused on next generation human centric computing and collaboration platforms. Smith developed a number of key technologies including extreme wide field of view lenses for AR, and was the designer of the DoD virtual world framework, a WebGL collaboration system that would later act as a common platform for training across all of the services in the Department of Defense. Smith also created the HoloWall, a wall-sized teleconference/collaboration platform.

Smith won the Lockheed Martin GTL/TLS Inventor of the Year four times, once for each year he was there. He was also nominated to be one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Nifty Fifty Speakers and spoke about his work and career to middle and high school students in October 2010.[9]

Wearality Corporation[edit]

Between 2014 and 2017, Smith served as CTO of Wearlity Corporation, where he developed and marketed technologies that enable next generation human/computer user interfaces.[10] Wearality had an exclusive license to the head wearable technologies that Smith and his team developed at Lockheed Martin. Their first product, the Wearality Sky launched in April 2015 in a KickStarter campaign. The Sky has the widest field of view of any head wearable, it is in focus everywhere, has minimal color diffraction, and has the largest exit pupil, by far.

The Croquet Project and Croquet Corporation[edit]

While collaborating on Virtus Walkthrough with Apple in 1990, Smith met Bonnie MacBird during the marketing of The Colony. MacBird introduced Smith to her husband, Alan Kay, who was a senior fellow at Apple at the time.

Smith and Kay discussed what the next computing paradigm would become, and they shared a belief that it would be centered around 3D and collaboration. The birth of the personal computer had left behind Doug Engelbart’s vision of collaboration, and Smith and Kay set off to bring it back.

In 1994, Smith created the first prototype of what would later become Croquet.

In 2000, Kay introduced Smith to David P. Reed, whose 1976 MIT thesis on replicated computation formed the basis of how Croquet would be built. Smith also met Andreas Raab through Kay, and the group started the Croquet project.

In 2018, Alan Kay’s team of engineers, Vanessa Freudenberg, Aran Lunzer, Yoshiki Ohshima, as well as Smith’s collaborator from Red Storm Entertainment, Brian Upton, joined Smith as co-founders of Croquet Corporation, to build a software system for creating multiuser digital experiences on the web. Croquet lets developers build real time multiuser apps without writing a single line of server code, or deploying or managing any servers. Croquet consists of a JavaScript library that grants access to its global network of public reflectors.

In 2020, the company raised its first round of funding. The company is based in Los Angeles, California.[11]


  1. ^ "Croquet Launches Edge Collaboration Platform and Global Developer Infrastructure for Creating Real-Time, Multi-User Web and Mobile Applications". marketwatch.com. MarketWatch. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Croquet Launches Live Collaboration Development Platform for the Next Generation of Apps and Games for 5G and AR". businesswire.com. Business Wire. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  3. ^ "DAVID SMITH". arinaction.org. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Man is Much More than a Tool Builder". redzonetech.net. 5 July 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Keynotes". ieeevr.org. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  6. ^ "In the beginning, there was". magazine.uchicago.edu. University of Chicago. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Smith named CEO of Timeline Studios". bizjournals.com. American City Business Journals. 13 May 1999. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  8. ^ Korolov, Maria (23 December 2011). "Teleplace gone; 3D ICC steps in to help customers". Hypergrid Business. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-24. Retrieved 2010-05-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Silicon Valley Startup Wearality Corporation Announces Former Google Ambassador Michael Jones As New CEO". businesswire.com. Business Wire. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Croquet Launches Live Collaboration Development Platform for the Next Generation of Apps and Games for 5G and AR". businesswire.com. Business Wire. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2021.

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