Mary Lou Jepsen

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Mary Lou Jepsen
Mary Lou Jepsen in Lab.jpg
Jepsen in 2018
Born1964/1965 (age 53–54)[1]
Alma materBrown University
OccupationTechnology Pioneer
Known forCo-founder, One Laptop Per Child

Mary Lou Jepsen (born 1965)[1][2] is a technical executive and inventor in the fields of display, imaging, and computer hardware. Her contributions have had worldwide adoption in head-mounted display, HDTV and projector products.

She was the co-founder and first chief technology officer of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) a non-profit that generated more than $1B in revenue and helped create $30B in revenue for its for-profit partners. Subsequently, she founded Pixel Qi in Taipei, Taiwan, focused on innovative opto-electronic architectures and the manufacturer thereof. She was a project leader at Google X, and after that an executive at Facebook / Oculus VR.[3] Among her objectives at Facebook was leading a concerted effort to bring Virtual Reality to the next level.

She is also the founder of OpenWater,[4] a startup working on fMRI-type imaging of the body using holographic, infrared techniques, .[5] and a member of the Xconomists, an ad hoc team of editorial advisors for the tech news and media company, Xconomy.[6]

In 2008, she was named to the Time 100, and In 2013 she was named to CNN's top 10 thinkers in science and technology, for her work in functional brain imaging.[1][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Jepsen studied Studio Art and Electrical Engineering at Brown University. She received a Master of Science in Holography from the MIT Media Lab, and then returned to Brown to receive a Ph.D. in Optical Sciences.[8]


Her PhD work combined theoretical coupled-wave analysis with lab work, in which she created large-scale, embossed surface-relief diffraction gratings with liquid crystal-filled grooves with high diffraction efficiency in un-polarized illumination.[9]

She has created some of the largest ambient displays ever. In Cologne, Germany she built a holographic replica of pre-existing buildings in the city's historic district and created a holographic display encompassing a city block.[10]


From 2003 until the end of 2004, she was the chief technology officer of Intel’s Display Division.[11]

MIT Media Lab and OLPC[edit]

In 2005 Jepsen joined the faculty of the MIT Media Lab as a professor with a tenure-track position. Here she started the Nomadic Displays Group, and co-created the first holographic video system in the world in 1989, where the interference structure of the hologram was computed at video rates, and shown on her hand-made display.[12] This system inspired a new subfield of holographic video and received numerous awards.[13]

She simultaneously co-founded One Laptop per Child, working with Nicholas Negroponte . to start One Laptop per Child, a $100 computer, the lowest-power laptop ever made. As of 2013, millions of units have shipped to children in the developing world and revenues are beyond the billion dollar mark. There are deployments in over 50 countries and in more than 25 different languages.[14] [15] For the entire first year of the effort (2005) she was the only employee of One Laptop per Child [OLPC]. By the end of 2005, she had completed the initial architecture, led the development of the first prototype , and signed up some of the world's largest manufacturers to produce the XO-1. By the end of 2007 she had led the laptop through development and into high volume mass production. At OLPC, Jepsen invented the laptop's sunlight-readable display technology and co-invented its ultra-low power management system, and transformed these inventions into high volume mass production. .[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Pixel Qi[edit]

Hooked on the impact that OLPC was having using the massive factory infrastructure of the world, she left Boston to split her time between Silicon Valley and Asia.[25]In 2008 she started a for-profit company, Pixel Qi, to commercialize some of the technologies she invented at OLPC.[26] The firm's business was based on the concept that the screen is the most critical component of any mobile device.[27][28] It aimed to deliver high performance, low-power, sunlight-readable screens for mobile devices. The long term vision of Pixel Qi was to create devices that never needed to be recharged by lowering the power consumption and using alternative power generation and battery technologies. Its screens became available in a few dozen[which?] commercial and specialized products with sunlight readability, and reduced screen power consumption (which typically accounts for about 90% of the power draw in a tablet, and 70% of the power draw on a standard cell phone.[29]

Google X[edit]

Jepsen joined Google X in 2013. She advised and directed display and consumer electronic programs throughout Google.[30] The Wall Street Journal reported that among her projects there she created Google Lego TV: displays composed of smaller screens that plug together like Legos to create vast, seamless images and "live walls" for wall size interaction, television, video conferencing and gaming, to virtual reality without having to wear anything on your face or body.[31] She was also one of the first contributors in Google's "Solve for X" projects with her idea of "Imaging the Mind's Eye".[32]


In February 2015, she joined Facebook as an executive for virtual reality.[3]


In 2016, Jepsen founded Openwater, a firm aiming to use infrared holography to make fMRI-type imaging inside the body practical, at the price level of consumer electronics and in wearable form factors.[5][33] She gave a talk at 2018 TED on the technology behind the Openwater approach.[34]


  • 100 most influential people in the world (Time Magazine's "Time 100").[1]
  • Canada's online Athatbasca University awarded Jepsen an honorary doctorate in 2008.[35]
  • One of 2013's top 10 thinkers (as named by CNN)[7], for her work in rethinking functional brain imaging with compact systems that could lead to direct communication via human thought.
  • In 2014 she received an honorary Doctorate of Science from Brown University.[36]
  • Edwin Land Medal from the Optical Society (OSA).[37]
  • Fellow of the Optical Society (OSA).[38]
  • One of the top 50 female computer scientists of all time (as determined by the Anita Borg Institute).[39]
  • Brown University's top alumni awards: Horace Mann Medal (awarded by Brown Graduate School) and BEAM award (awarded by Brown University School of Engineering).[40][41]
  • 2011 ABIE Award for Innovation [42] from the Anita Borg Institute.[43]
  • 2018 Forbes' America's Top 50 Women In Tech[44]

She has also received numerous awards for the work she did at One Laptop per Child and has been named to many other "top" lists in computing by Fast Company, New York Times, IEEE Spectrum and others.

Personal life[edit]

Jepsen is married to John Patrick Conor Ryan, formerly a partner at Monitor Group. In 1995, she suffered from a pituitary gland tumor and had it removed and thus suffers from panhypopituitarism, requiring a twice-daily regimen of hormone replacement;[45] her personal description of this and the ongoing challenges she faces was published in the New York Times.[46]


  1. ^ a b c d Kahle, Brewster (May 12, 2008). "The 2008 TIME 100: Scientists & Thinkers - Mary Lou Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014. Jepsen, 43
  2. ^ Jepsen, Mary Lou (November 23, 2013). "Bringing Back My Real Self With Hormones". The New York Times. 1978, when I was 13
  3. ^ a b "Oculus Has Hired Mary Lou Jepsen Away From Google X".
  4. ^ Open Water. "OpenWater".
  5. ^ a b "Mary Lou Jepsen on Life Post-Facebook and New Startup,"Open Water"". 6 May 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  6. ^ "About Our Mission, Team, and Editorial Ethics". Xconomy. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  7. ^ a b "The CNN 10: Thinkers". CNN. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  8. ^ [1] Archived December 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Jepsen, Mary Lou (1997). "Liquid crystal filled diffraction gratings". 3125. Bibcode:1997PhDT........11J.
  10. ^ [2] Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen: Laptops for All". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  12. ^ "DSpace@MIT: Holographic video : design and implementation of a display system". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  13. ^ "Holography Pioneer Stephen A. Benton". MIT Video. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  14. ^ "OLPC Deployments as of October 2011 – Google Maps". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  15. ^ "OLPC research". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  16. ^ Ryan, John (17 January 2008). "A Conversation with Mary Lou Jepsen". ACM Queue. ACM. 5 (7). Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  17. ^ "NPR piece on Hundred-dollar laptop in early 2006". March 20, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  18. ^ "8 minute interview with Jepsen at WSIS, Tunis, November 2005". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  19. ^ "6 minute video with Jepsen describing green features of the XO Laptop, 1 February 2008". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  20. ^ "The Grill: Pixel Qi's Mary Lou Jepsen on OLPC and the future of display technology". 19 January 2009. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  21. ^ "Groklaw interview with Mary Lou Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  22. ^ "Newsweek story on Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  23. ^ [3] Archived October 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ "Article on OLPC laptop featuring Jepsen's contributions". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  25. ^ "Maintenance Mode – OLPC News Forum". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  26. ^ "OLPC CTO Mary Lou Jepsen quits nonprofit effort". 31 December 2007. Archived from the original on January 4, 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Pixel Qi eyes Taiwan". Retrieved October 5, 2014. (subscription required)
  28. ^ Pixel Qi "About Us" page, accessed October 5, 2008
  29. ^ "Pixel Qi – Our Technology". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  30. ^ Winkler, Rolfe; Barr, Alistair (3 October 2014). "Google Working on Large-Scale Video Displays". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Google Is Inventing Screens That Snap Together Like Lego". October 6, 2014.
  32. ^ Nasir, Farhat. "Google X? Google Launches "Solve for X" For Discussing Radical Ideas to Solve World Problems". Hitechanalogy. Archived from the original on November 19, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  33. ^ "TED 2018: Thought-Reading Machines and the Death of Love". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  34. ^ Jepsen, Mary Lou. "TED2018 talk". TED. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  35. ^ Athabasca University Retrieved 25 August 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ "Brown confers nine honorary degrees". Brown University. May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  37. ^ "Edwin H. Land Medal". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  38. ^ "2012 Fellows – Awards & Grants – The Optical Society". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  39. ^ "Profiles of Technical Women: Famous Women in Computer Science". Archived from the original on March 8, 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  40. ^ "BEAM Award Winners". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  41. ^ "Horace Mann Medal". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  42. ^ "ABIE award". Anita Borg Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  43. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen -". February 2, 2017.
  44. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen". Forbes.
  45. ^ Mary Lou Jepsen – Inspiring, February 12, 2007
  46. ^ "Bringing Back My Real Self With Hormones". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2014.

External links[edit]