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Underwater Virtual Reality Game Developed to Treat MS

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. He has created a virtual reality game called “Shark Punch”. It was made with everyday items like smart phones and dive masks and is not only fun to play but therapeutic as well.

“I’d been considering the idea of an aquatic game for a while,” said Quarles, a multiple sclerosis patient himself. “In rehabilitation, there aren’t really any virtual reality games you can play in the pool.” It is common for MS patients to work out in the pool, as they tend to get overheated which obviously makes symptoms worse.

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.

“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.”