Karl D.D. Willis

I am a Senior Research Manager at Autodesk Research focused on design software for manufacturing. Our team collaborates with industry to solve difficult problems, often using generative design. I’m passionate about research and building great products. I have worked extensively at the intersection of software and hardware, with 10+ years of experience in R&D for product. I hold a Ph.D. in Computational Design from Carnegie Mellon University and most recently worked as a Principal Research Engineer at Autodesk and in the Interaction Group at Disney Research. My current work is focused on digital manufacturing.

I have presented my research internationally at venues such as ACM CHI, ACM UIST, and ACM TEI. I have won numerous awards including ‘Best Paper’ at UIST 2011 and the prestigious Tokyo Type Director’s Club Interactive Design prize. My work has been exhibited at venues such as the UNESCO Universal Forum of Cultures in Mexico, Club Transmediale in Germany, the Science Gallery in Ireland, and the Sony ExploraScience Center in Japan. I have worked at companies such as Sony and Disney where I have turned my ideas into products that reach a global audience.


  • Senior Research Manager, 2017 – Present, Autodesk, San Francisco, USA.
  • VP of Product Development, 2016, Voxel8, Boston, USA.
  • Co-founder and CEO, 2015, Addimation, San Francisco, USA.
  • Principal Research Engineer, 2013-2015, Autodesk, San Francisco, USA.
  • Lab Associate, 2009-2013, Disney Research, Pittsburgh, USA.
  • Research Intern, 2012, Microsoft Research, Redmond, USA.
  • Research Assistant, 2009, JST Erato Design Interface Project, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Research Assistant, 2007 – 2009, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Interaction Designer, Freelance, 2002 – 2005, New Zealand / Japan.
  • Designer, 2001, WebMedia, Melbourne, Australia.


  • Ph.D. Computational Design, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.
  • Master of Design, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan.
  • Bachelor of Digital Media (First Class Honours), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
  • Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design, Wanganui School of Design, Wanganui, New Zealand.


  • Platinum A’ Design Award, Lighting Products and Projects 2012-2013, Printed Bulbs (with Eric Brockmeyer).
  • Bronze International Design Award, Home Interior Products – Lighting 2012, Printed Bulbs (with Eric Brockmeyer).
  • Best Paper Award Nominee, UIST 2012 Conference, Printed Optics: 3D Printing of Embedded Optical Elements for Interactive Devices (with Eric Brockmeyer, Scott Hudson, & Ivan Poupyrev).
  • Best Demo Award, UIST 2012 Conference, Printed Optics: 3D Printing of Embedded Optical Elements for Interactive Devices (with Eric Brockmeyer, Scott Hudson, & Ivan Poupyrev).
  • Best Paper Award, UIST 2011 Conference, SideBySide: Ad-hoc Multi-user Interaction with Handheld Projectors (with Ivan Poupyrev, Scott Hudson, & Moshe Mahler).
  • Best Demo Award, UIST 2011 Conference, SideBySide: Ad-hoc Multi-user Interaction with Handheld Projectors (with Ivan Poupyrev, Scott Hudson, & Moshe Mahler).
  • Honorable Mention Award, CHI 2011 Conference, Kineticons: Using Iconographic Motion in Graphical User Interface Design (with Chris Harrison, Gary Hsieh, Jodi Forlizzi, & Scott Hudson).
  • Best Presentation Award, Pervasive 2010 Conference, 12Pixels: Exploring Social Drawing on Mobile Phones.
  • Tokyo Interactive Ad Award (Bronze), Application Category, 12Pixels (Sony CSL/Sony Marketing Japan/Imaginative Inc).
  • Tokyo Type Director’s Club, Interactive Design Prize 2007, Light Tracer.
  • Digital Stadium, Grand Prix Finalist 2006, Light Tracer.
  • Asian Digital Art Award, Interactive Art Prize 2006, Light Tracer.
  • Gakusei CG Contest, Excellence Prize 2006, Light Tracer.

Grants & Scholarships

  • GUSH Funds Award, 2010, research grant, Pre-cinema Handheld Projectors.
  • Fine Foundation Grant, 2010, project funding, Interactive Fabrication.
  • Mitoh Exploratory Software Grant, 2007 – 2008, software development, Alchemy.
  • Monbukagakusho Scholarship, 2006 – 2009, graduate research in Japan.

Selected Patents

  • ‘Trackable Projection Surfaces using Hidden Marker Tracking’, with Takaaki Shiratori, Disney Research.
  • ‘Multi-user Interaction with Handheld Projectors’, with Ivan Poupyrev, Disney Research.
  • ‘MotionBeam Interaction Techniques for Handheld Projectors’, with Ivan Poupyrev, Disney Research.
  • ‘Image Drawing Method for Portable Terminal’, with Ivan Poupyrev, Sony CSL.

Selected Exhibitions

  • Lightwave, Science Gallery, February 2 – 8 2008, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Unesco Universal Forum of Cultures, September 20 – December 8 2007, Monterrey, Mexico.
  • RoboKuma Lab, Sony ExploraScience Museum, June 28 – September 24 2007, Tokyo, Japan.
  • A.L.I.C.E. Museum, Hangaram Design Museum, June 1 – 22 2007, Seoul, Korea.
  • Art Rock, May 22 – 28 2007, Saint-Brieuc, France.
  • 07 TDC Exhibition, Ginza Graphic Gallery, April 3 – April 25 2007, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Club Transmediale, January 25 – February 3 2007, Berlin, Germany.
  • The Nordic Exceptional Trendshop 2006, December 2-3 2006, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • TASIE – The 2nd Art & Science International Exhibition, November 11-25 2006, Beijing, China.
  • Building Interactive Playgrounds at Elettrowave, July 14-15 2006, Arezzo, Italy.

Selected Workshops & Lectures

  • Research Talk, Tokyo University of Arts, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Alchemy workshop, Hiro Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 12Pixels talk, DemoSa, Tokyo, Japan.
  • ‘Low-tech creativity workshop’, Lightwave, Science Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Tokyo TDC day, Light Tracer talk, Joshibi University of Art & Design, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Recent Work Talk, Art Centre Nabi, Seoul, Korea.

Selected Press Coverage

  • Printed Optics, BBC News, October 2012, United Kingdom.
  • Interactive Fabrication, Click (BBC World Service), March 2011, United Kingdom.
  • Alchemy, Page Magazine, May 2010, Germany.
  • 12Pixels, WatchMe TV (Fuji TV), August 9 & August 16 2009, Japan
  • 12Pixels, New Scientist Magazine, March 2009, United Kingdom.
  • BoxBeat, Art World China Magazine, February 2009, China.
  • Light Tracer, Page Magazine, December 2007, Germany.
  • Light Tracer, Idealog Magazine, #8, New Zealand.
  • Light Tracer, Tokyo Type Directors Club Annual 2007, Vol. 18, Transart Inc., Tokyo, Japan.
  • Light Tracer, Tiger TRANSLATE: The Auckland Chapter, Booklet/DVD, December 2006, IdN, Hong Kong.
  • Light Tracer, Digital Stadium, NHK BS2, November 25 & December 23 2006, Japan.