(April 14, 2016) -- John Quarles, an associate professor of computer science at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has developed a new virtual reality method of aquatic physical therapy. Quarles’s game, “Shark Punch,” was made with everyday items like smart phones and dive masks and is as therapeutic as it is entertaining.
“I’d been considering the idea of an aquatic game for a while,” said Quarles, who has multiple sclerosis. “In rehabilitation, there aren’t really any virtual reality games you can play in the pool.”
Like many people with multiple sclerosis, Quarles gets overheated while exercising and that makes his symptoms worse. Exercising in the pool keeps his temperature down and helps him balance.
For the past year, Quarles has been developing and testing the game, which involves strapping a waterproof smart phone to the user’s chest. A second phone attached to a dive mask allows the user to explore a virtual underwater reality.
The goal of the game is to must evade and fend off a virtual great white shark by trying to punch it on the nose. The phone attached to the user’s chest detects when he throws a punch. It gives off a chomping noise and a little buzz if the shark is able to get a bite.
Quarles made sure the experience felt as real as possible. When the user looks through the goggles at the smart phone screen, the image mimics the experience of looking through a dive mask by splitting the screen. When he goes to punch the shark, a fist is seen flying across the screen.
“Virtual reality has existed for some time in physical therapy,” said Quarles. “Aquatic therapy has been a part of treatment for MS for a long time as well, but no one had merged the two yet.”
Earlier this year, Quarles applied for a patent for Shark Punch. In the meantime he will test the device on other MS patients so he can improve it. He hopes the game can also be adapted to help people seeking out aquatic therapy to cope with injuries or recovery from surgery.
“The idea is to think outside of the box when it comes to virtual reality gaming,” he said. “Games can have a positive effect on people’s lives, and that’s what we’re striving for.”
By Joanna Carver
Public Affairs Specialist
Learn more about John Quarles.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Computer Science.
UTSA's annual sustainability festival, showcases the university’s and the City of San Antonio’s progress on researching and developing sustainable solutions to improve the quality life for future generations.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
The institute will feature a performance from Eva Ybarra, the “Queen of the Accordion.” Manuel Medrano will premiere a documentary on Ybarra’s career. Two people receive free admission with a voucher available here.
Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Get involved and register to vote. Click on the link to find out the locations on the Main and Downtown Campuses.
Multiple locations on the Main and Downtown Campuses
Learn about products and services available for studying, working, and making it to graduation! Speak directly to OIT managers, provide feedback on UTSA tech, and have your voice heard! Lunch and OIT gear provided. RSVP at: www.utsa.edu/oit/sic.
University Center, Denman Ballroom (2.01.28), Main Campus
Come meet the candidates looking to take home the crown as Mr. and Ms. UTSA 2017-2018. This is your opportunity to hear the candidates platform and learn how they plan to represent and transform UTSA.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
UTSA's Friends of Shakespeare hosts this annual performance seried by Actors from the London Stage, Sept. 27, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The Monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery will prepare a mandala sand painting on the main exhibit floor and offer various lectures and activities.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Meet researchers and practitioners from academia, industry and government who are working to address smart cities related issues. Register here: https://utsaresearch.wufoo.com/forms/smart-cities-networking-luncheon/
Durango Building, La Villita Room (DB 1.116), Downtown Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.