He gave Pixar its name – an invented Spanish verb meaning, „to make pictures,” inspired by his upbringing in New Mexico.
Dr. Alvy Ray Smith cofounded two successful startups: Pixar – see Pixar founding documents – (sold to Disney) and Altamira (sold to Microsoft).
First director of computer graphics at Lucasfilm. Original member of the Computer Graphics Lab of the New York Institute of Technology. First Graphics Fellow at Microsoft. At Xerox PARC for the birth of the personal computer. Received two technical Academy Awards, for the alpha channel and digital paint systems.
Invented the first full-color paint program, the HSV (or HSB) color transform, and the alpha channel. Directed the Genesis Demo in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Hired John Lasseter and directed him in The Adventures of André & Wally B. Proposed and negotiated the Academy-Award winning Disney computer animation production system, CAPS. Instrumental, as a Regent, in initiating the Visible Human Project of the National Library of Medicine. Star witness in a trial that successfully invalidated five patents that threatened Adobe Photoshop.
Holds Ph.D. from Stanford University and honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University. Member of the National Academy of Engineering. Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.
Published widely in theoretical computer science and computer graphics. Creator of many pieces of computer art, including Sunstone in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Holds four patents. Now writing a book, A Biography of the Pixel.
Dr. Smith holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University (dissertation: Cellular Automata Theory). He received an honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University, his undergraduate alma mater, in Dec 1999. His product, Altamira Composer, introduced the concept of image objects (sprites) to the personal computer imaging world. Sprites are based on the alpha channel concept, which he convened and for which he shares a 1996 technical Academy Award. He was awarded a second technical Academy Award in 1998 for digital paint systems as a fundamental contribution to filmmaking.
He was co-awarded the Computer Graphics Achievement Award by the Association for Computing Machinery SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics) in 1990 for „seminal contributions to computer paint systems,” including the first full-color paint program, the first soft-edged fill program, and the HSV (aka HSB) color space model.
His portrait was included in a group of 200 photographs of major contributors to the computer industry, published in the book Wizards and Their Wonders: Portraits in Computing. He was inducted into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Computer Museum in Mountain View CA. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for „fundamental changes in the graphic arts and motion picture industries.” And he was elected a Fellow of the American association for the Advancement of Science „for distinguished contributions and leadership in computer science and engineering, particularly for advances in computer graphics, including critical and foundational technical achievements in computer animation.”