Mary Lou Jepsen

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Mary Lou Jepsen
Mary Lou Jepsen - eTech 2009.jpg
Jepsen in 2009
Born 1964/1965 (age 50–51)[1][2]
Nationality American
Alma mater Brown University
Occupation Technology Pioneer
Known for Co-founder, One Laptop Per Child

Mary Lou Jepsen (born 1964 or 1965)[1][2] is an executive at Facebook / Oculus VR.[3] Among her objectives at Facebook is leading a concerted effort to bring Virtual Reality to the next level. Previously she was Head of the Display Division at Google X where she led more than one "Moon Shot" program, reported to Sergey Brin, and advised and directed display and consumer electronic programs throughout Google. 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" .. in other words from wall size interaction, television, video conferencing and gaming to virtual reality without having to wear anything on your face or body.[4]

She is also founder and former CEO of Pixel Qi in Taipei, Taiwan, focused on innovative opto-electronic architectures and the manufacturer thereof. Pixel Qi delivers high performance, low-power, sunlight-readable screens for mobile devices. The long term vision of Pixel Qi is to create devices that never need be recharged through a two prong approach 1) lowering the power consumption of the device through innovative screen and power management technology and 2) using alternative power generation and battery technologies.

She was the co-founder and the 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. There she architected the $100 laptop with new screen architectures, new very low power management architecture, new battery technology, new mesh networking protocol, and new user interface all in record time – and shipped millions of them in an effort to start to transform education opportunities for children in the developing world.[5]

She was named to the "Time 100", an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time Magazine. In 2013 she was named one of the CNN 10: a list of top 10 thinkers in science and technology by CNN for her work in rethinking functional brain imaging with higher resolution more compact systems which can ultimately lead to communication directly via human thought.[1][6]

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.[7] Her contributions have had worldwide adoption in head-mounted display, HDTV and projector products. Her PhD work combined rigorous 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.[8]

Jepsen 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.[9] She also conceived, built mathematical models of, resolved the fundamental engineering issues, and solved some of the logistics – to create what would have been the largest display ever for mankind: images displayed on the darkened moon. She co-created the first holographic video system in the world at the MIT Media Lab in 1989, where the interference structure of the hologram was computed at video rates, and shown on her hand-made display.[10] This system inspired a new subfield of holographic video and received numerous awards.[11]

Microdisplay Corp[edit]

Jepsen helped pioneer single-panel field sequential projection display systems,[12] co-founding Microdisplay, the first company whose sole effort was the development of tiny displays, in 1995. There she served as its chief technology officer through 2003.[13] In the late 1990s and early 2000s she pioneered products as diverse as head mounted displays, wrist-watch video, mobile phones, rear-projection tvs and monitors, front projectors and even telecom cross-bar switches.


From 2003 until the end of 2004, she was the chief technology officer of Intel’s Display Division.[14]

MIT Media Lab[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. She simultaneously co-founded One Laptop per Child. Then, 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.[15]


In January 2005, Jepsen joined Nicholas Negroponte to start One Laptop per Child and led the design, architecture, partnering, development and manufacture of the $100 laptop. As of 2013, millions of units have shipped and revenues are beyond the billion dollar mark. Every child in Uruguay has an OLPC laptop. There are deployments in over 50 other countries and in more than 25 different languages. OLPC is credited with changing the equation for what a minister of education can do to improve the education of a country's children.[16] [17]

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 (which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan unveiled at a UN summit), 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, notably, Jepsen invented the laptop's sunlight-readable display technology and co-invented its ultra-low power management system – and – has transformed these inventions into high volume mass production rapidly. The XO laptop is the lowest-power laptop ever made, and the most environmentally friendly laptop ever made. The laptop can sustain 5 foot drops, is mesh networked extending the reach of the network by letting signals hop from laptop to laptop.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Pixel Qi[edit]

Main article: Pixel Qi

After 3 full years with OLPC, In early 2008 she left OLPC to start a for-profit company, Pixel Qi, to commercialize some of the technologies she invented at OLPC. [30] Pixel Qi's business is based on the concept that the screen is the most critical component of any mobile device.[31] Pixel Qi screens are available in a few dozen products and massively reduce the power consumption of the screen, which now accounts for about 90% of the power draw in an Apple iPad, and 70% of the power draw on a standard cell phone.[32]

Solve for X[edit]

Mary Lou Jepsen was one of the first contributors in Google's "Solve for X" [33] projects with her idea of "Imaging the Mind's Eye".

Google X[edit]

Mary Lou joined Google X in 2013 as “Head of the Display Division”.[34]

The Wall Street Journal reports that among her projects there she is creating Google Lego TV: displays composed of smaller screens that plug together like Lego to create a seamless image and "live walls" or virtual reality without wearing anything on your face or body.[4]


Re/Code announced in February 2015 that Jepsen was joining as an executive at Facebook to bring Virtual Reality to the next level and speculated that she would be bringing to reality her TED talk of 2013 on communicating directly with human thought.[3] Jepsen is also one of the worlds top consumer electronics / IT hardware architects known for incorporating novel screen and optical designs into her products that ship quickly and at scale, this is also likely key for the Facebook mission to bring VR to 1 Billion people where the screen is key for the experience of VR.[35]


Mary Lou has won numerous awards, some major awards are:

She has also received numerous awards for the work she did at One Laptop per Child,[43] and has been named to many other "top" lists in computing by Fast Company, New York Times, IEEE Spectrum and others. She is the "foursquare" mayor of Carnegie's Restaurant and Bar in Taipei, Taiwan. Quoted as saying "I honestly come here just for the food".[44]

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. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "The CNN 10: Thinkers". CNN. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ [1] Archived December 13, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Liquid crystal filled diffraction gratings". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ [2] Archived July 18, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "DSpace@MIT: Holographic video : design and implementation of a display system". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Holography Pioneer Stephen A. Benton". MIT Video. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  12. ^ "High resolution LCOS microdisplay for single-, double- or triple-panel projection systems". Displays 23: 109–114. doi:10.1016/S0141-9382(02)00015-X. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Microdisplay Corp Employees – Professional Experience,Email,Phone numbers..Everything!". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen: Laptops for All". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Maintenance Mode – OLPC News Forum". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  16. ^ "OLPC Deployments as of October 2011 – Google Maps". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  17. ^ "OLPC research". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  18. ^ "ACM Queue: A Conversation with Mary Lou Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  19. ^ Pixel Qi "About Us" page, accessed October 5, 2008
  20. ^ "An excellent interview about de XO Design and technical choices". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  21. ^ "NPR piece on Hundred-dollar laptop in early 2006". March 20, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  22. ^ "8 minute interview with Jepsen at WSIS, Tunis, November 2005". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  23. ^ "6 minute video with Jepsen describing green features of the XO Laptop, 1 February 2008". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  24. ^ [3][dead link]
  25. ^ "Mary Lou Jepsen acceptance speech for Anita Borg Women of Vision Award". YouTube. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Groklaw interview with Mary Lou Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Newsweek story on Jepsen". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  28. ^ [4] Archived October 2, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Article on OLPC laptop featuring Jepsen's contributions". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  30. ^ [5][dead link]
  31. ^ "Pixel Qi eyes Taiwan". Retrieved October 5, 2014.  (subscription required)
  32. ^ "Pixel Qi – Our Technology". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ "Sign Up – LinkedIn". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ [6][dead link]
  37. ^ "Brown confers nine honorary degrees". Brown University. May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Edwin H. Land Medal". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  39. ^ "2012 Fellows – Awards & Grants – The Optical Society". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  40. ^ [7][dead link]
  41. ^ "BEAM Award Winners". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  42. ^ "Horace Mann Medal". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  43. ^ "Sign Up – LinkedIn". Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  44. ^ "Mary Lou J.". Foursquare. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  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]