(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.
Come celebrate the doctoral students graduating this commencement season.H-E-B Student Union Ballrooms, UTSA Main Campus
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the College for Health, Community and Policy, College of Liberal and Fine Arts and College of Sciences.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, College of Education and Human Development, Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design and University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
First Friday Stargazing gives anyone free access to the night sky using university telescopes and teaching equipment. Weather permitting, experienced astronomers will provide a handful of telescopes of varying designs, give training on how each operates, and point to various astronomical objects that may appear in the sky for that given time of the year. If you have a telescope and do not know how to operate it, feel free to bring it and get instructions on its use.4th Floor of Flawn Science Building, Main 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.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.