(Feb. 12, 2018) -- John Quarles is an associate professor of computer science at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He specializes in using cutting edge technology to create video games and other devices to help people in need.
Last year, he received a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for his game, “Shark Punch,” an aquatic virtual reality game for people with multiple sclerosis. This year, he’s created an augmented reality program to train first responders and has teamed up his game development students with a local nonprofit to create video games for injured veterans.
Can you talk about the project you’re currently most excited to be working on?
We are partnering with a local rehabilitation institute, the Teleton Children’s Rehabilitation Institute, to use our virtual reality aquatic therapy games to help kids with disabilities. We are planning to adapt some of our lab’s current games so they can be used for rehabilitation by children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
Our first project together is going to be an in-water virtual reality game where the player plays the role of a frog that jumps on lily pads in a pond to catch bugs. For this effort, I’m collaborating with Paula Geigle, adjunct assistant professor of neurology at the University of Maryland and a renowned clinician and expert in aquatic therapy research.
How has your personal journey influenced your work?
I have multiple sclerosis, which directly influenced my choice to research assistive technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality for rehabilitation. One of the games I created in that arena is called Shark Punch. It’s a therapeutic underwater virtual reality game aimed at people with multiple sclerosis. Many people with MS get overheated when exercising, which can make the symptoms worse. Exercising in the pool keeps the body’s temperature down and helps with balance.
What is the most important thing going on in your field that no one is talking about?
Virtual reality is great, but its not accessible to many persons with disabilities. There needs to be more research and development toward making virtual reality universally usable.
This past semester, I encouraged students in my game development class to use their skills to create a game tailored to the abilities and interests of a specific injured veteran. The results were very impressive. Some of my students even took the opportunity to use virtual reality devices to make their games accessible to veterans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play video games.
What advice do you usually give to your students?
Network, network, network. The connections you make in the professional world are invaluable. Take as many opportunities as you can to reach out to people in the field that you want to be a part of.
What do you think makes UTSA unique?
Our diversity. UTSA is diverse in so many different ways, but what is most exciting is the fact that our students come from so many different walks of life—so many different cultures—and that contributes to a very unique, inclusive community.
If you weren’t an associate professor of computer science, what career do you think you would have?
I'd be a research scientist at a government lab making simulations to better train soldiers. Back in 2009, I actually had an offer from the Army that I turned down to take the assistant professor position at UTSA.
Learn more about John Quarles.
Explore the UTSA Department of Computer Science.
The Roadrunner community and nearby residents are highly encouraged to cast their votes at UTSA, a designated early voting site for the March 3 Texas presidential primary election.H-E-B Student Union, Bexar Room (HSU 1.102), Main Campus
The best way to learn what UTSA has to offer is to experience it for yourself. Come to our Open House and see all that UTSA has to offer. The day features admissions and financial aid workshops and presentations, campus tours and much more.Various Locations, Main Campus
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in health care, you won’t want to miss UTSA’s 14th annual Health Professions Day. Meet with representatives of health professions programs at schools such as Texas Tech University Health Science Center, University of Texas Medical Branch, University North Texas Health Science Center, University of the Incarnate Word, and many more. Free and open to UTSA students, local area college and high school students, and community members.Student Union, Retama Galleria (SU First Floor Corridor), Main Campus
An FBI subject matter expert will discuss the threat to U.S. technology and public sector from foreign adversaries, specific technologies sought and vectors used to illicitly obtain them, how to best safeguard intellectual property.Durango Building (DB 2.112A), Downtown Campus
Why just leap when you can dash? The Alumni Association’s 36th annual Diploma Dash 5K and City Championship is a great opportunity to run or walk for a great cause: scholarships for UTSA students.Main Campus
Students are encouraged to attend to obtain important information about Spring Commencement and life after UTSA. Graduating students can order their cap and gown and other items, win prizes and capture lasting memories with fellow Roadrunners at a selfie station. Participants should take a UTSA student ID for entry.H-E-B Student Union, Ballrooms (HSU 1.104/1.106), Main Campus
UTSA’s first Wellbeing Fair is a part of the President’s Initiative of Enriching Campus Wellbeing. UTSA is committed to the well-being of each member of the campus community and recognizes that numerous factors contribute to overall wellness: physical and mental health, diet and nutrition, physical activity, stress management and self-care, social behaviors and more. The fair will give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to participate in well-being activities, obtain well-being information and learn about available services. Participants will become more competent in making healthy decisions to take a more proactive approach in their own well-being.Paseo Principal, Student Union, Main Campus
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