Profile picture of Prof. James O'Brien

Contact Information:

EECS, Computer Science Division
731 Soda Hall, Mail Code 1776
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, California 94720-1776

Office Phone: (510) 642-0865
E-mail: job [at]
Email prefered.

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James F. O'Brien, Ph.D.

Professor of Computer Science
University of California, Berkeley

Profile picture of James O'Brien

Dr. James F. O'Brien is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include computer graphics, computer animation, simulations of physical systems, human perception, rendering, image synthesis, machine learning, virtual reality, digital privacy, and the forensic analysis of images and video.

In addition to his research pursuits, Prof. O'Brien has worked with film and game companies on integrating advanced simulation physics into games and special effects. His methods for destruction modeling have been used in over 200 feature films and game titles. Prof. O'Brien was Chief Scientist at Pixelux and Avametric, and is currently a technical advisor to Juice Labs and Chief Scientist/co-founder at Get Klothed. He has also served as an expert witness or consulting expert in multiple patent cases.

In 2015 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his work in destruction modeling with an Academy Award for Technical Achievement. In 2000 he received his doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology where his thesis received the College of Computing's Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. Professor O'Brien is a Sloan Fellow, recipient of the Jim and Donna Gray Endowment Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and FIU College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni. He was selected as one of Technology Review's TR-35, awarded Georgia Tech's 15 Year Impact award, and received research fellowships from the Okawa and Hellman Foundations. From 2010 through 2016 he served as Director at Large for ACM SIGGRAPH. In 2020 he received an award for Technical Achievement from Dreamworks Animation.

A complete list of academic publications, including the full PDFs and supplemental materials, can be found here: Publications


Interests and activities outside the University.

Some of the activities that I enjoy during my personal time away from campus include photography, traveling, scuba, camping, beat saber, woodworking, and glassblowing. I also enjoy science fiction and using it as a context for thinking about life, the universe, and everything.

Are we approaching a technological singularity? Probably, and I think that it might arrive sooner than expected. I also think that it will be very different from the, perhaps naively optimistic, scenarios that many technologists forecast. Occasionally, I write about this topic.

Images from current and past research projects.

Images link to pages with further information.

Thumbnail of plot
Thumbnail of multiple plots
Beat Saber thumbnail
Thumbnail image of floorplan
Thumbnail image of body fits
Thumbnail image of body fits
Thumbnail of facial capture
Image of "picture-o-meter"
Thumbnail image of multiple faces
Small image of explosion.
Thumbnail image from paper showing error over body surface
Teapot with gold and red texture
Brokenup building
Crack pattern in 2D
Damages bridge
Thumbnail of toothless from Dream Works movie
Spiral cut out
Multiple dancing figures
Thumbnail image of flowers
Wire mesh image of a flag
Image of a man holding a large shark
A ball breaking glass
Thumbnail image of a phone displaying a water simultation
A dancer shown in wire mesh from multiple locations
A blue dog
Annotated photo of 1970 moon landing
A crumpled ball of paper
Dancing stick figure wearing green robe
Bullet striking concrete plate
Dancing stick figure
Thumbnail of stanford dragon
Thumbnail of ball being thrown
Wodden toys in front of mirrors
Shouth Hall
Stick figure wearing a shirt
Measurment equipment
Robot folding clothes
Simulated cloth sheets interacting with balls
Wire mnesh of dripping cube
Figure in yellow shirt and blue panks kicking
Elevated view of San Francisco
Screen capture of video game with Darth Vader
Surgical simulation screen shot
Simulated water
Simulated water
Simulated water
Simulated smoke
Simulated water  in containers with beads
Simulated water on standford bunny
Stanford bunny shattering
Simulated water
Green tractor
Woman wearing mo-cap suit
Broken glass
Man in mo-cap suit
Dose distribution thumbnail
Berkeley angel rendered
Utah teapot with crack pattern
Stanford dragon with crack pattern
Sonogram thumbnail
Windchimes in a garden
Bust with green goop on it
Green goop pouring into a space
Rubbery brain thumbnail
Stop motion images of a football player
Simulated explosion
Simulated smoke
Textured water surface
Animated figure being pushed
Rendered building thumbnail
Textured fluid
Berkeley Angel with crack pattern
Closed polygon linkage
Animated explosion
Broekn wook in a video game
Colorful fluid simulation
Rendering of a cathedral
Two closed polygon linkages
simulated blast wave
Glass dragon with smoke
3D isosurface
Cartoon rendered fluid
Broekn wall
Smoke with obstacles
Polygon linkage
Toy bird struck by ball
Multiple thumbnails of smoke in a mesh