is an American visual artist of mixed Japanese and German heritage. She has a B.S. in product design engineering from Stanford University, an M.S. in human-machine interface engineering from MIT and a Diploma in Applied Graphics from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
Her teaching activities have included positions in the Design Department of Carnegie Mellon University and in the Visual Arts Department of the University of California at San Diego. She lectures internationally on the creation of meaning in art and of dramatic experience in time-based and interactive media. She is developing a theory of dramatic structure for virtual reality that merges concepts of structured experience from music theory, drama and urban planning together with the possibilities for user engagement and immersion provided by first-person interactivity. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge, MA, USA.
She was creative director and producer of the award-winning Starbright World virtual playspace, Steven Spielberg's first foray into 3D on-line virtual reality. A multi-million dollar initiative developed by the non-profit Starbright Foundation, of which Spielberg is chairman, Starbright World is a network-based virtual community for seriously ill children. A private, high bandwidth network between childrens hospitals across the nation allowed the children to meet and socialize on-line in a 3D virtual world.
In the early 1980s Thinking Machines Corporation asked her to conceive a visual form for a new type of supercomputer, the Connection Machines CM-1 and CM-2. The fastest of their time, these machines were the first massively parallel supercomputers, containing over 64,000 processors richly connected together like the neurons in the human brain. She created a massive, 5 feet tall cube, black: the non-color of static mass, but transparent, filled with a soft, constantly changing cloud of lights from the processor chips, red: the color of life and energy. It was the archetype of an electronic brain, of a living, thinking machine. CM-2s are preserved in various museums, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
In a more intimate series of works collectively called the Totem Project she uses the technological "eye" of the camera and the manipulative capabilities of the computer to transform the human body into abstract forms that trigger powerful associations in the mythic imagination, transforming images of "innocent" body parts into fetishistic objects, projections of the viewer's own desires and fears. Recent works in the Totem Project include: