Ivan Sutherland, a pioneer in computer graphics now working at Portland State University, has won this year's Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, an annual award from a Japanese foundation that recognizes significant technical, scientific and artistic contributions to the "betterment of mankind."
The award -- which comes with a gold medal and a cash prize worth more than $600,000 -- honors Sutherland for nearly five decades of work demonstrating that computer graphics could be used "for both technical and artistic purposes."
The Inamori Foundation, which awards the Kyoto Prize, credited Sutherland for developing Sketchpad, a 1963 computer program that could take rough sketches and use them to generate accurate drawings.
"It was a major breakthrough in the development of computer graphics, and later served as the foundation of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) most commonly associated today with computers, video games, smartphones and more," the foundation said. Subsequently, the foundation said, Sutherland influenced others in the graphics field -- including founders of Pixar Animation Studios, Adobe Systems and Silicon Graphics.
Now 74, Sutherland joined Portland State University as a researcher in 2009 when he and his wife, Marly Roncken, founded the university's Asynchronous Research Center. They're studying ways to improve communication within computer chips by making them less reliant on a single clock. Computational speeds now exceed the rate at which electrons move along wires inside the chip. So Roncken and Sutherland are working out other ways for circuits to communicate their responsibilities without relying on time signals.