Steven M. LaValle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Steven M. LaValle
Born1968 (age 55–56)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Known forRRT, Oculus Rift
Scientific career
FieldsRobotics, virtual reality, AI, control theory
InstitutionsUniversity of Oulu, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Oculus VR, Huawei, Stanford University, Iowa State University
Doctoral advisorSeth Hutchinson

Steven M. LaValle (born 1968 in St. Louis, Missouri) is an American computer scientist, and a professor in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oulu. He was also an early founder and head scientist of Oculus VR until it was acquired by Facebook in 2014. He is best known for his work on rapidly exploring random trees (RRTs), the Oculus Rift, and his book, Planning Algorithms,[1] one of the most highly cited texts in the field.

Academic career[edit]

LaValle received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign in 1990, 1993, and 1995, respectively. From 1995 to 1997, he was a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University. From 1997 to 2001, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University. From 2001 to 2018, he was on the faculty in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, as a full professor. Since 2018, he has been a professor at the University of Oulu in Finland.

He has published over 150 articles, in which most of his earlier works were in the area of robot motion planning. In addition to introducing RRTs, he coined the term "sampling-based motion planning" and developed numerous planning algorithms for handling typical control-theoretic problems such as kinematic constraints, momentum, feedback, multiobjective optimality, and stochastic uncertainty.

His more recent research has focused on understanding the minimal information requirements for robot systems, leading to simpler sensor fusion methods and mathematical models that help to reduce complexity of robots (informally, their brain size) that are designed for particular tasks.[2]

He has published three textbooks, all of which are freely available online. In addition to "Planning Algorithms", mentioned above, he wrote books titled Sensing and Filtering[3] and Virtual Reality.[4]

Oculus VR[edit]

During a leave of absence from the University of Illinois, LaValle started working from Oulu, Finland for Oculus VR in September 2012, a few days after their Kickstarter campaign.[5] He served as their principal scientist from March 2013[6] until the company was acquired by Facebook in July 2014,[7] addressing virtual reality challenges "including sensor fusion, magnetic drift correction, and kinematic modeling" while disseminating the company's technical achievements in a science blog.[6] He developed head tracking methods for the core software, based on IMUs and computer vision, and led a team of perceptual psychologists to provide principled approaches to virtual reality system calibration and the design of comfortable user experiences.[8] He was a coauthor of the first Oculus SDK Overview.[9]

He is a co-inventor on two Oculus VR patents. One (with Peter Giokaris) is for perception based predictive tracking for the Oculus Rift, which was crucial in reducing perceived tracking latency.[10] The other is for sensor calibration and filtering methods, which were important for highly accurate, low-latency tracking.[11]

Other industry[edit]

Since 2014, LaValle has been an active angel investor and adviser to startup companies and venture capitalists, in the areas of virtual and augmented reality, and robotics.

From 2016-2017, he was a Vice President and the Chief Scientist of VR/AR/MR at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.[12][13]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2012 LaValle was named "University Scholar" along with six other professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.[14]

During 2015, he was featured on displays offering expert perspective in the Robot Revolution exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.[15]

In 2019, LaValle (with James J. Kuffner Jr.) received the Milestone Award from the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, for the most impactful paper[16] (among around 3000) published between 1997 and 2001.[17]


  1. ^ LaValle, Steven (2006). Planning Algorithms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86205-1. Available online at
  2. ^ "Steven M. LaValle".
  3. ^ LaValle, Steven (2012). Sensing and Filtering. Boston: Now Publishers. Available online at
  4. ^ LaValle, Steven (2017). Virtual Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available online at
  5. ^ Harris, Blake (2019). The History of the Future. New York: HarperCollins.
  6. ^ a b "Meet Tom Forsyth and Steve LaValle, Science Blog, Nate's Talk at GDC, and Unity Trial Extensions". Oculus VR. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  7. ^ "The 'big and rising area' of virtual-reality technology". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Robotics Meets Virtual Reality". MIT. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  9. ^ "Oculus SDK Overview" (PDF). Oculus/Facebook. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Perception Based Predictive Tracking for Head Mounted Displays". US Government. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Calibration of Virtual Reality Systems". US Government. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  12. ^ "Former Oculus VR head scientist to join Huawei". China Daily. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  13. ^ "CES 2017: Tech preview of Las Vegas's biggest launches". BBC News. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Seven Urbana campus faculty members named University Scholars". University of Illinois News.
  15. ^ "LaValle Featured in MSI's Robot Revolution Exhibit". University of Illinois News. Archived from the original on 2015-06-17.
  16. ^ Randomized kinodynamic planning. S. M. LaValle and J. J. Kuffner. In Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages 473-479, 1999.
  17. ^ "Awards to our researchers LaValle, Bennis and Giunti". Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering News.

External links[edit]