Dr. Christopher R. Wren

Speaking | Honors | Experience | Education | Publications | Patents

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I am drawn to the junction between dynamic systems, people and computers. I seek to understand how systems change over time. I enjoy helping others to know these systems through data and visualization. At the United States Digital Service I've used my skills to improve systems that the most vulnerable depend on. At Google I manifested this drive by launching innovative features and interfaces that are used by billions of people a day. At MERL I won awards for my work revealing the social patterns of large groups in buildings. I have also invented computer vision systems for human machine interface and developed dynamic simulations for graphics, haptics, and engineering.

Public Speaking

Honors and Endorsements

  • Operation Allies Welcome challenge coin for work at USDS on Afghan refugee resettlement.
  • "Chris filled an enormous, dangerous void by addressing a very literal blind spot for Android. [The project] represents a landmark achievement in Android's history and a turning point in how we operate."
  • "It's impressive how much progress and thought leadership Chris has brought to [the project]"
  • Best Paper: IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization, October 2007
  • Pfinder article in PAMI has been cited more than 5,000 times


USDS Digital Services Expert
United States Digital Service, Remote
2021 - present
Now: Facing a Financial Shock , an effort within the work directed by the executive order on customer experience to improve access to critical support families need to re-establish financial stability after a shock.
Previously: working to improve the U. S. Refugee program processes for Afghan refugees and the worldwide refugee generally
Googler Senior Staff Software Engineer (since 2018)
Google, Inc., Cambridge, MA, USA
2008 - 2021
Now: Android.
Previously: Google Plus, Google Buzz, Friend Connect
Projects and Launches:

Visiting Scientist
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
2017 - 2019
Human Dynmaics Group, Media Lab


Principal Research Scientist
Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories, Cambridge, MA, USA
2001 - 2008
Led a loose team that developed novel sensor network technologies for buildings: including sensing and network platforms, perceptual systems, visualization interfaces, and ethical frameworks. The work won academic awards and helped force a reinterpretation of the company's core businesses. 11 patents, 22 papers.


Senior Perceptual Engineer
Perceptive Network Technologies, Inc., Waltham, MA, USA
2000 - 2001
Founding member of a perceptual sciences company dedicated to bringing context-aware communication technologies to the desktop, to help users manage converging information technologies.


Research Assistant
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge, MA, USA
Media Laboratory, Vision and Modeling Group
1994 - 2000
I studied under Prof. Alex Pentland, one of the most widely cited authors in the field of computer vision. We combined rigorous intellectual acheivement with practical engineering to build successful SIGGRAPH demonstrations and perceptual tool kits used internationally by many research institutions. I learened to love the balancing act at the junction of innovation, communication, and impact.


Engineer and Dynamicist
Boston Dynamics Inc., Cambridge, MA, USA
1993 - 1994
I worked for two years under Prof. Marc Raibert, inventor of many running robots including Big Dog, and founder of Boston Dynamics, Inc. Marc taught me much about tiger-team engineering and rapid prototyping. We built physics-based simulations of robots, elevators, frogs, and humans to drive analysis, animation, tele-immersion, and force-feedback systems under tight deadlines for international clients in academics, research, industry, and the military.


Research Technician
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Media Laboratory, Advanced Human Interface Group
1989 - 1993
I worked four formative years under Dr. Richard A. Bolt, author of The Human Interface and founding member of the MIT Media Laboratory. I learned to love the human side of human-computer interface, while building tools to support the research effort, such as a scripted, networked, object-oriented graphics system that pre-dated similar commercial systems such as SGI Inventor.


Media Lab

Doctor of Philosophy.
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Thesis Title: "Understanding Expressive Action."
Minor: "Stochastics, Dynamics, and Recursive Filtering."

Master of Science.
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Thesis Title: "Pfinder: Real-Time Tracking of the Human Body"


Bachelor of Science
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Thesis Title: "Dynamic Simulation of Large Systems: Trees Blowing in the Wind."
Minor: Cognitive Psychology.

Secondary Education.
Western Reserve Academy, Hudson, OH, USA

Selected Publications


"Google+ Ripples: A Native Visualization of Information Flow" Fernanda Viegas, Martin Wattenberg, Jack Hebert, Geoffrey Borggaard, Alison Cichowlas, Jonathan Feinberg, Jon Orwant, Chris Wren Proceedings of the 22nd International World Wide Web Conference, May 13-17, 2013. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (www2013.org, Research@Google)

"Visualizing the History of Living Spaces" Yuri A. Ivanov, Christopher R. Wren, Alexander Sorokin, Ishwinder Kaur. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, ISSN: 1077-2626, Vol. 13, Issue 6, pp. 1153-1160, Nov-Dec 2007 ( IEEE Xplore, TR2007-068))


"SocialMotion: Measuring the Hidden Social Life of a Building" Christopher R. Wren, Yuri A. Ivanov, Ishwinder Kaur, Darren Leigh, Jonathan Westhues. Third International Symposium on Location- and Context-Awareness. September 2007. Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. DOI MERL TR2007-034

"Buzz: Measuring and Visualizing Conference Crowds" Christopher R. Wren, Yuri A. Ivanov, Darren Leigh, Jonathan Westhues, Mariela Buchin, Tai-Peng Tian, and Pavan Turaga. ACM SIGGRAPH 2007 Emerging Technologies, San Diego, CA, USA. August 2007. (abs)

Reinforcement Learner PTZ

"Functional Calibration for Pan-Tilt-Zoom Cameras in Hybrid Sensor Networks". Christopher R. Wren, U. Murat Erdem, Ali J. Azarbayejani. ACM Multimedia Systems Journal, Special Issue on Multimedia Surveillance Systems. Volume 12, number 3. December 2006. DOI Link . (updated version of MERL TR2005-084)

"Similarity-based analysis for large networks of ultra-low resolution sensors". Christopher R. Wren, David Minnen, and Srinivas G. Rao. Pattern Recognition, volume 39, issue 10, pp. 1918--1931. Special Issue on Similarity-Based Pattern Recognition. Elsevier. October 2006. DOI Link . (also MERL TR2005-003)


"Worse is Better for Ambient Sensing" Carson J. Reynolds and Christopher R. Wren. Pervasive 2006 Workshop on Privacy, Trust and Identity Issues for Ambient Intelligence. May 7th, 2006. Dublin, Ireland. (also MERL TR2006-005)

"Perception for Human Motion Understanding," Christopher R. Wren. in Machine Learning and Robot Perception Vol. 7 in the series: "Studies in Computational Intelligence." Edited by Apolloni, Ghosh, Alpaslan, Jain, and Patnaik. Published by Springer. 2005. pp. 265-324. Springer Link (also Vismod TR 527)


"Minimalism in Ubiquitous Interface Design", Christopher R. Wren and Carson J. Reynolds. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, September 2004, 8(5), pp. 370-373. Springer Link (also MERL TR2002-22)

"Volumetric Operations with Surface Margins." Christopher R. Wren, Yuri A. Ivanov. IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Technical Sketches, Kauai, HI, USA. December 2001. (also MERL TR2001-047)


"Wearable City of News." Flavia Sparacino, Steve Schwartz, Christopher R. Wren, Richard W. DeVaul, Glorianna Davenport, Alex P. Pentland. ACM SIGGRAPH 1999 Millennium Motel, Los Angeles, CA, USA. August 1999.

"Pfinder: Real-Time Tracking of the Human Body." Christopher R. Wren, Ali J. Azarbayejani, Trevor Darrell, and Alex P. Pentland. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, July 1997, 19(7), pp. 780-785. IEEE Link (also MIT Thesis)

Full bibliography: PDF CV.



United States Patent 10,938,767 "Outputting reengagement alerts by a computing device" Wren, Tong, Chu, Reynolds, Barber, Mellor, Cinek

United States Patent 10,142,351 "Retrieving contact information based on image recognition, III" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 10,145,947 "Mapping positions of devices using audio II" Borggaard, Koulomzin, and Wren

United States Patent 9,753,129 "Mapping positions of devices using audio I" Borggaard, Koulomzin, and Wren

United States Patent 9,519,638 "Feed translation for a social network, III" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 9,454,665 "Retrieving contact information based on image recognition, II" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 9,449,302 "Generating personalized websites and newsletters" Marantz, Shore, Terleski, Borggaard, Shalabi, Wren

United States Patent 9,148,742 "Proximity detection via audio" Koulomzin and Wren

United States Patent 9,137,194 "Tools for micro-communities, II" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 8,818,049 "Retrieving contact information based on image recognition, I" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 8,694,593 "Tools for micro-communities, I" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 8,694,445 "Triggering attract mode for devices, II" Sandler, Cohen, Wren, Spurlock

United States Patent 8,538,742 "Feed translation for a social network, II" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 8,533,266 "User presence detection and event discovery" Koulomzin, Wren, and Sandler

United States Patent 8,510,381 "Sharing electronic resources with users of nearby devices" Birand, Koulomzin, Wren

United States Patent 8,447,516 "Efficient proximity detection" Koulomzin, Grabkovsky, and Wren

United States Patent 8,412,512 "Feed translation for a social network, I" Wren and Aharony

United States Patent 8,401,981 "Triggering attract mode for devices, I" Sandler, Cohen, Wren, and Spurlock

United States Patent 8,149,278 "Modeling Movement of Objects with Probabilistic Graphs." Wren, Ivanov, Sorokin, and Banga.

United States Patent 7,907,781 "Determining Geometries of Scenes" Ivanov, Thornton, and Wren.

United States Patent 7,667,730: "Composite Surveillance Camera System". Wren, Azarbayejani, and Dietz.

United States Patent 7,619,647: "Context Aware Surveillance System Using a Hybrid Sensor Network" Wren, Erdem, and Azarbayejani.

United States Patent 7,542,949: "Efficient Hierarchical Decomposition of Temporal Patterns." Wren and Minnen.

United States Patent 7,415,164: "Spectral Similarity for Object Detection." Wren and Porikli.

United States Patent 7,359,836: "Scalable Activity Recognition for Sensor Networks". Wren and Munguia Tapia.

United States Patent 7,302,369: "Traffic and Geometry Modeling with Sensor Networks." Wren.

United States Patent 7,242,421: "Establishing a communications link by sensing perceptual presence." Center, Wren, Basu, and Gusyatin.

United States Patent 6,911,995: "Depth segmentation with virtual surface margins" Ivanov, Pentland, and Wren.

United States Patent 6,680,745: "Videoconferencing method with tracking of face and dynamic bandwidth allocation." Center and Wren.

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