There are lots of applications for virtual reality, and one of them is games. University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) computer science associate professor John Quarles has developed a new VR method of aquatic physical therapy. The game is called Shark Punch and it was made with everyday items such as smart phones and dive masks. The game has been described as therapeutic and entertaining.
Quarles says: “I’d been considering the idea of an aquatic game for a while. In rehabilitation, there aren’t really any virtual reality games you can play in the pool.”
People with multiple sclerosis feel overheated when exercising, and this is what Quarles is trying to address with Shark Punch. Since overheating during exercise keeps temperatures down and helps with balance.
Quarles has been developing and testing the game since last year. Playing the game involves attaching a smartphone to a user’s chest. A second phone is needed which will be connected to a dive mask so patients can explore a virtual underwater reality.
During the game, you have to avoid and fend off a great white shark. You do this by punching it on the nose. Your actions are detected by the smartphone you have on your chest. Also, you’ll hear a chomping noise as well as a little buzz when the shark can get a bite.
What is virtual reality without it feeling real, right? This was one of the issues that Quarles answered. He really wanted the experience to feel as real as possible. As such, you see a splitting of the screen when you put on the goggles. This is what happens in the real world when you look through your goggles.
According to Quarles, “Virtual reality has existed for some time in physical therapy. Aquatic therapy has been a part of treatment for MS for a long time as well, but no one has merged the two yet.”
Quarles has applied for a patent for Shark Punch earlier this year. While that is being settled, he will try the device on other patients with MS to get ideas on how he can improve the system. Quarles also hopes that adaptations of the game can be given to patients looking for aquatic therapy to deal with injuries or recover from surgery.
Quarles says: “The idea is to think outside of the box when it comes to virtual reality gaming. Games and have a positive effect on people’s lives, and that’s what we’re striving for.”
Several studies have been made when it comes to the impact that VR has on the human body. In this case, a doctor created a VR system to help those affected by MS. The Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation published a study that looked into the use of VR help patients with MD maintain their balance. A lot of those with MS suffer from issues with balance. With the VR system, these problems can at least be alleviated.
Virtual reality has a lot of potential to do good. It can help people who need it the most.