Rob Cook - Commissioner, Technology Transformation Service
Rob Cook is the Commissioner of GSA’s Technology Transformation Service following a pioneering career in the private sector spanning more than four decades.
He began his career as a software engineer and researcher and later became an entrepreneur and business leader.
In 1981, he joined Lucasfilm/Pixar. He was the first to use Monte Carlo techniques in computer graphics, which was essential for the simulation of complex, realistic lights and camera effects. The latter proved particularly important in the special effects industry, because it allowed computer-generated imagery to match the motion blur and depth of field of the live-action footage with which it was combined. He also invented programmable shading, which is an essential part of GPUs and game engines as well as high-end renderers.
Cook was the co-architect and primary author of Pixar's RenderMan software, which creates photo-realistic computer images for animation, effects, and design. RenderMan revolutionized special effects and long dominated the industry: for 19 of the last 20 years, the Visual Effects Oscar has gone to a film that used RenderMan.
In 1989 he left Pixar to start Light Source, a digital imaging company that created the Ofoto software and was sold to X-Rite. He then became CEO of Numinous, a software company that he sold to Microsoft. Afterwards he returned to Pixar and became its VP of Software Development. Since 2012, he has been a business consultant for several prominent companies in Silicon Valley. Along the way, he has served on numerous boards and advisory boards in the corporate and nonprofit world.
In 2001, Cook received an Oscar, the first given for software. In 1987, he received the ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, and in 2009, he received the ACM SIGGRAPH Stephen A. Coons Award for his lifetime contributions to computer graphics. In 1999, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has been named to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Engineering.
Cook was born in Knoxville, TN. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University and a Master’s degree in computer graphics from Cornell University. At Cornell, he worked on simulating realistic surfaces, taking computer-generated images beyond the plastic, artificial look they had at the time.