Inducted October 2023
In recognition of Bob Ferris for his pioneering innovation and implementation of immersive virtual reality simulation across the education, entertainment, military, and law enforcement industries.
As an early trailblazer in virtual reality education, Mr. Ferris made groundbreaking contributions during the earliest years of computer-based simulation. He played a significant role in popularizing immersive simulation to millions through major theme park installations. Shifting his company’s focus in 2001, he dedicated his efforts to supporting all those on the frontlines of the Global War on Terrorism. He became the global trailblazer in creating revolutionary and effective simulator capabilities such as immersive multi-screen simulators, simulated return fire, realistic conversion kits for firearms, and the first multi-screen drag-and-drop scenario generator.
Mr. Ferris’s daring and inventive endeavors have significantly influenced the virtual reality landscape and profoundly improved the effectiveness of police and military training across the globe.
Bob Ferris entered the US Air Force Academy in 1990, but he left in 1992 to start his own simulation firm while attending the University of Arizona, where earned his bachelor’s degree in systems engineering in 1995. Before he graduated, he founded Ferris Productions in 1993 for the purpose of “immersive virtual reality.”
Mr. Ferris was an early pioneer of VR education, and he established the world’s first educational use of virtual reality for college students simulating atomic motion at the University of Arizona. It was studied by the National Science Foundation and laid the groundwork for the educational use of modeling and simulation for years afterward.
The VR simulators he created earlier in his career were designed to entertain. Mr. Ferris employed some of the first VR headsets ever created and was the VR simulation partner for 12 theme parks with over 500,000 VR headset experiences per year – which also represented the first immersive VR simulation experience for nearly all those users. The VR ollercoaster simulation market began when Mr. Ferris created the first-ever VR rollercoaster prototype for Europa Park in Germany. He also helped start the experiential simulation market after creating the first 360- degree VR experiences for Fortune 100 companies to educate potential customers.
National publications dubbed Mr. Ferris “a grandfather of VR” in the late 1990s because of his contributions to VR. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 made him redirect his company’s efforts towards increasing the effectiveness of simulators to help warfighters on the front lines of the War on Terror, and his company’s name was changed to “VirTra, Inc.”
VirTra released the first 300-degree photorealistic simulator at I/ITSEC 2004. It featured the world’s first M4 drop-in recoil kit with lock-back, the world’s first electric return fire simulator, and the world’s first multiscreen drag-and-drop scenario creation tool. It is still recognized as the most realistic simulation system for firearms training.
Mr. Ferris was actively involved and pioneering new concepts in the modeling, simulation and training community for 32 years at the time of his inclusion to the NCS Hall of Fame. He still currently serves as the co-CEO and chairman of VirTra.