Jack McCauley an Innovator in Residence at Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley, a Professor at UC Berkeley, Co-Founder of Oculus, an American engineer, hardware designer, inventor, video game developer, and philanthropist. Jack is best known for designing the guitars and drums for the Guitar Hero video game series, and as a co-founder and former chief engineer at Oculus VR. At Oculus, Jack designed and built the Oculus DK1 and DK2 virtual reality headsets. Oculus was acquired by Facebook for$2 Billion. McCauley holds numerous U.S. patents for inventions in software, audio effects, virtual reality, motion control, computer peripherals, and video game hardware and controllers. Jack was awarded a full scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley where he earned a BSc., EECS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1986. Jack has authored numerous research papers in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and mathematical modeling of AI-based systems and is currently pursuing new projects at his private R&D facility and hardware incubator in Livermore, California.  

Heart Rate Monitor to Nike

IN 2010 I pitched a smartwatch combo heart rate monitor invention to Nike. I patented this idea of a watch with monitor in 2010. I did the ID design and then off to Graham England, my ID guy for photoreal renders. (Graham also did the DK1, DK2 and Rift IDs for Oculus.)

Napier’s “bones” calculator

Calculator I built that is a copy of Napier’s “bones” calculator that is a rendition of a calculator from ancient Mesopotamia. This calculator can compute numbers as large as 10^18 which is 1 million trillion. It was used for trade in Mesopotamia and for tax calculations and commodities in Europe from 1600 onward. It also does square and cube roots or any integer nth root that I have a bar for. I got so fast with this I could beat an electronic calculator with high precision. For division, it computes fractional remainders because the decimal point was not invented or in widespread use until the 19th century. Napier invented the log scale and many other common math expressions we use today. The term “counter top” refers historically to this machine, and the operator of the device was done by… an accountant ! I did this build on a whim after seeing one in a museum and becoming obsessed with it. I’m an amateur mathematician and I’m a trustee at a prestigious math institute where I get to mingle with famous (real) mathematicians like Roger Penrose, Jim Simons, Dave Eisenbud and my math mentor Elwyn Berlekamp. Elwyn hired me back in the 80s to work on the film “Terminator 2” for which he principally designed the Oscar winning sound system. Elwyn got me the gig at MSRI (the math institute) after I left Oculus. I stayed in touch with Elwyn for 35 years until his passing in 2019.

Hindu-Arabic system

To say that Islam has had a profound influence on mathematics is an understatement. One mathematician in particular was named Al-Khwarizmi (590-650.) Khwarizmi wrote the first text book on Algebra which was a distillation of Mesopotamian works that functioned with balancing and trade of commodities. Khwarizmi was a Muslim cleric and scholar who taught in what is now Iran. In my class at Berkeley, I spend one lecture talking about the history of math and the evolution of numbers. I find these things fascinating really. We use the Hindu-Arabic system as does the rest of the world. This system was not in use in Europe until the 1000 AD because Khwarizmi’s textbook sat untranslated in a Greek monastery for 300 years entering Europe and widely transcribed after being rediscovered. Everything we have today in math is a result of Khwarizmi’s work and the role of Islam. Without trade and commerce, no predicate evolution would have occurred. Capitalism benefits all. Collectivism is a death spiral. Profit drives science. Remember education when you vote.

Hydrogen Balloon

Pure hydrogen H2 does not burn. To burn it must be mixed with O2. In a weather balloon, if you used pure hydrogen, the volume of gas you’d need would be 1/5 the volume of helium and a similar sized balloon would have five times the lift capacity with H2 hydrogen. If you lit a match inside pure hydrogen nothing would happen. On the Hindenburg airship, they used hydrogen and you could not build such an airship of that lift capacity today without hydrogen. Choosing hydrogen and being careful would make balloon transportation with zero emissions feasible. If you used the polar jet stream, you could deliver and transport goods in 1/4 the time and with zero emissions. In ww1 they used hydrogen balloons for observation. Accidents were few and even if you fired a tracer round through it nothing would happen. On the supposed Chinese spy balloon, this was a hydrogen balloon. It made all the way across the world without incident. Judging by the size of it and how it was instrumented, I’d say it was a scientific instrument. They already have it in the US and thanks to the news cycle we’ve already forgotten about it. How about that spy balloon? How come the US had stopped taking about it. What was on it?

First EVC

Thirty years ago today I met with Malcolm Bricklin and Lee Iacocca. Lee was the chairman of Chrysler and had just retired. I used to write for Dr. Dobbs Journal and Byte Magazine and this is how they found me. I don’t write anymore and it’s not in my skillset really, I just liked doing it back then. Byte is still around I think. Malcolm had started an electric vehicle company (named EVC) with Lee. I was in awe of both men because I’m a car guy and I knew their history as both were famous car people. They were looking for an engineer to help them, so they contracted me to build an electric bicycle which would have a pedal torque sensing power assist. I started the project and could not get it to work well. After reading at the library on alternate control strategies, I stumbled upon Fuzzy Logic in a paper by Lotfi A. Zadeh, a professor at UC Berkeley. I decided to write the software for the Bike using Fuzzy Logic (which is a branch of AI) and got it to work really well. The bike I built is one of the very first ebikes, which are really popular at the moment. Here’s the picture of myself and my son with the EVC ebike. This was late 1993. The follow up article appeared in Dr. Dobbs Journal a popular technical journal back in the day. I was probably the first person to use AI in an EV. Also the first to use early Lithium Ion batteries in an EV which Lee got from Sony as prototypes. The system had full regen and a top speed of 20 mph. EVC is still around making bikes. Malcolm is still alive. Lee passed in 2019.

Climate Change Conundrum

I’m a researcher and I teach at the top Engineering college in the world. I also graduated from there. I’m smart and I was the class of 2019 commencement speaker. I am really good at doing research. I pivoted to researching the issues of global warming about six months ago. I used for my research data from farming and local weather stations. I also used data from NOAA, the national agency here in the US. The national data and the local data pretty much coincide. We found that the average temperature in the US has increased since 1949 at about 0.0417 degrees per year. This means in 100 years the average temperature will increase 4.17 degrees here. We also found that daytime temperatures are not increasing and in fact in some places it’s getting cooler during the day. It’s also getting rainier here. The rainfall has increased in proportion to the average temperature increase. We are getting warmer and wetter here in the US. Climate change does not mean there is a drought as the politicians blame climate change for a lack of planning with water capacity here in California. The nights are warmer here in the US. This is why the average temperature is going up. It stays warm because the heat energy is being trapped somehow and not radiating back into space at night. This is not good. We are told that it’s due to CO2 emissions and human activity. I decided to investigate this matter in relation to climate change. If you had a huge swimming pool filled with a million ping pong balls, and you had 280 red ping pong balls amongst them, that would mean that 0.028% of the total would be red ping pong balls. A very small amount. If you then removed 100 white ping pong balls and replaced them with 100 red ping pong balls, the percent would increase to 0.038% red balls in the pool. The difference then between 0.038% and 0.028% is 0.010%. In 1775 we had 280 red ping pong balls of CO2 per one million air molecules. In 2021 we had 380 red ping pong balls of CO2. In 250 years, the percent increase of CO2 is 0.01%. Air is composed of 21% oxygen, and the rest mostly nitrogen. If pulled out 210,000 white balls from the pool and replaced them with blue ping pong balls, the pool would take on a bluish hue. There simply is not enough red ping pong balls in the pool to make any change in the hue of the pool. How can it be that a 0.01% increase in the red balls in the pool makes such a difference? This is a valid question. It’s not like it went from 21% to 30% or something like that. That would be a reasonable explanation for the increase in temperature. So what’s causing it? What is causing the increase? It doesn’t appear that the sun is getting any hotter.

Jack McCauley Lola E3

Overhead shot of car I designed and built that was finished three years ago. The car has a GM LS7 and is California emissions compliant. We did the entire car in SOLIDWORKS and machined the parts in-house on our 5-axis Haas CNC. About a 1/4 of the parts were made in Carbon Fiber on our Fortus 450 MC 3D printer, including the engine intake manifold. I did most of the programming and engineering work on the computer system which consists of four embedded computers on a CAN bus. I spent five yeas working on this and it was a teaching tool for our students here. We even made the wheels! All of the vehicle dynamics were done by me. The car is loosely based on a Lola T70 and it also has an electronic steering wheel.

Combustion Experiment

At UC Berkeley last year I built a rig to accurately measure the combustion efficiencies of a piston IC engine to see what the real eff. numbers are. We used ethanol for a fuel source and squirted a small amount of if (200 proof bourbon) into the combustion chamber. The rig has a small piston with a seal that prevents any energy from escaping around the piston so it seals completely. The rig consists of a clear plastic tube, a pressure sensor, a piston and a computer. The computer records the pressure and a high speed camera @1000 FPS measures the piston position in the tube after ignition. The silver piston reaches the top of it’s travel in 0.033 seconds or about 60 feet per second. The piston then returns to it’s starting position after all of the energy from the fuel is expended. We found that ethanol has a maximum efficiency of 29%. Gasoline roughly the same. This means that from the gas tank to powering the car is at most around ~30% eff.. Tesla EV is about 90% efficiency. That’s the advantage. We then proceeded to fire these 3D printed mortar rounds out in the parking lot for fun ?

A Portable Wind Tunnel

We built a portable wind tunnel for measuring EV efficiency and will be used to calculate the drag coefficients of Tesla and Chevrolet EVs. It sticks on the car windshield using suction cups. Pitot tube based  anemometer. Jack had two choices to place the portable wind tunnel at mid ground level near the front air intake or place it on the roof. He said: I personally think that the mid ground level is the most accurate but it sticks out there and I was afraid of damaging it was just easier to place it on the windshield. He then found a little difference between the GPS speed and wind speed if drove it during the early morning hours on flat ground with a little turbulence. He was able to back calculate the Drag-Area and using the factory area and ODBII PIDs, get within a few percent of the factory number of Cd=.308. The number was .311. The PIDs are comprehensive and highly accurate. used a tire model for LRR tires. Next is the Model S.