Brendan Iribe describes himself as someone who frequently considers the future of technology and the possibilities that it holds.
“I think about how technology is going to replace traditional infrastructure,” he says. He easily and cheerfully discusses the ubiquity of virtual and augmented reality, believable robots, and the endless ways that these things could change how we as humans act, think, and experience not only life, but how we interact with one another.
When asked about how his interests match up with one of the Computer Science Department’s main missions—to educate undergraduate students—he responds candidly that the university doesn’t always keep up fully with rapid structural changes. “There are times when it can feel that a university hasn’t evolved as fast as technology,” but he then adds, “at the same time, however, there’s something really special […] something personally and emotionally important about going to college. A university is not just about education. If it were, there would be a way to make it more efficient. Going to college is about the social experience of being on a campus and meeting people.”
Iribe’s founding gift of $30M for The Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation allows him to act as a catalyst to bring some rapid changes to the University of Maryland’s infrastructure. He supports the Computer Science Department’s vision to bring more innovation and quickly evolving technologies to undergrads, allowing them to experience learning about Computer Science in a fast moving, mutable environment. He touts the importance of giving students the space to learn how to build holodecks, socialize with friends, make new hardware, and develop cutting edge software, thereby making Computer Science more fun. “I want [The Iribe Center] to feel like Silicon Valley just hit College Park,” he says, ”students, graduate students, and professors need open, collaborative spaces. Replicating what Oculus and Facebook have in some parts of our architecture is important.” He wants students and faculty in the CS Department to feel as though they are swept up in the same happy maelstrom of activity that takes place in similar architectural enviorments where companies including as Facebook and Oculus have flourished.
Iribe has emphasized that he will not just support the initial founding of The Iribe Center—he feels committed to ensure its building and completion. He understands that additional funds may be needed to construct the best possible space for the CS Department, and he has remarked that he will help the department to find that funding.
This generosity and determination has helped Brendan Iribe to distinguish himself in myriad ways during his storied career as an entrepreneur, CEO, and technology evangelist. Currently, he is the CEO and co-founder of Oculus VR, a company that builds the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display. Both Brendan and his team at Oculus believe that virtual reality headsets will become as integral to many of our lives as have smart phones, home computers, and video game consoles.
The open collaborative spaces that will be a part of The Iribe Center’s design will certainly reflect similar spaces at Oculus. The open floor plans will encourage colleagues in both CS and UMIACS to continue to work on projects together, ask for input from one another, and to refine developing ideas. If Brendan Iribe has anything to do with it, Department of Computer Science, UMIACS, the College of CMNS, and University will continually develop as a hub of innovation, Virtual Reality, and the home to many talented and happy professors, researchers, and students.