(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.
De-stress during Finals Week with UTSA Libraries' Relaxation Stations, located at John Peace Library on the second floor, and at the Downtown Library. The Relaxation Stations will include puzzles, coloring and more from Dec. 6-Dec. 14.John Peace Library, second floor and Downtown Library, Main and Downtown Campuses
This UTSA student exhibit features the work of anthropology students who have examined the effects tourism has on local culture.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Students from grades 9 to 12 at Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering delved into their family histories and turned their family photos into artworks.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
The first ceremony begins at 10 a.m. honors graduates from the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, College of Business, College of Education and Human Development and College of Public Policy.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
At 4 p.m., the second ceremony will be held to honor graduates from the College of Engineering, College of Liberal and Fine Arts, College of Science and the University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
UTSA's John Nix invites the community to sing "Amazing Grace" and “We Shall Overcome” at 11 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The intent of this nationwide effort is to honor Dr. King's legacy and to spread a sense of community in the United States.Locations throughout the United States
The annual event features authentic foods, music, dance, martial arts, shopping, games and entertainment from China, to the Indian Sub-continent, and the island nations of the Pacific. The Festival features two stages, a martial arts demonstration area, children’s hands on crafting area, anime activities, bonsai and ikebana displays, mahjong table and more.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA Day is an Open House and one of the best ways to see what it is like to be part of the UTSA Family! Schedule a visit the way you want, based on your interests and time. Learn more about the next steps on becoming a Roadrunner!Various locations, Main Campus
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