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Student story

Jonathan O'Duffy

20 July 2023

"It is really cool that the things we made were sent to real companies like Google in the USA..."


Master of Human Interface Technology

Indie Video Game Developer, Temper Tantrum

After completing his undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Tasmania, Jonathan was encouraged by his professor to attend UC for further studies in Human Interface Technology at HIT Lab NZ.

"My supervisor Thomas Furness has created three HIT Labs so far - the first one in Washington University, the second in UC, and the third in the University of Tasmania. He told me that I had to come to New Zealand and study at HIT Lab NZ to see what an established lab feels like and to meet all the HIT Lab people here. He also told me how good the New Zealand environment is.

"He wasn't wrong about coming to New Zealand allowing me to grow a lot. It has been an awesome journey so far."

Travelling from Australia with the Furness Scholarship, Jonathan has certainly enjoyed the opportunity to study with HIT Lab NZ.

"The environment and people are just amazing. It doesn't feel so much a lab as it does family. Everyone is really nice here and helps each other out. So you're not battling alone, you have support all around you. Plus everyone wants to work together and share the research they are working on."

As part of his thesis, Jonathan developed a system called 'Ghost' which can be used to assist patients in physiotherapy exercises.

"The project developed a concept wherein a physiotherapist or healthcare professional is able to 'virtually' inhabit the body of a remote patient to instruct and guide that patient's rehabilitation exercises. From the patient's perspective, the remote therapist is seen as a life-size 'ghost' that appears to originate from within the patient and guides their actions."

Jonathan was particularly impressed with the chance to have a real-world impact on growing technologies in the industry.

"It was really cool that the things we made were sent to real companies as a potential for publishing into research papers. For example, we had to make hardware addons for Google Glass, which my supervisor then took to Google Glass in the USA and showed them what we had been doing here at the lab. I don't know many places which can offer that type of opportunity.

"I also worked with people in Australia on creating a Parkinson application to help improve their health called 'Active Arms'. My job was to take the exercises the clinicians want the patients to do and turn it into a game, while at the same time recording the data."

Outside of study, Jonathan had a number of projects in the works to help others wanting to learn more about HIT.

"I see life as a giant learning experience," he says. "I did tutoring at UTAS were I created the tutorials for the Virtual Reality unit and I am currently looking into turning that material into a book for other people. I also have my own YouTube channel where I put up tutorials on how to make Virtual and Augmented Reality applications."

As a result, Jonathan plans a number of different career paths for the future.

"My goal is to create multiple companies that help people. I am currently working on my own game company called Temper Tantrum that makes games that are fun to play, then take those games and turn them into serious games to help people through health, education, training etc.

"Once my game company takes off, I will then take the profit and open up another company in a needed area to help the local community. There is only so much money I need - the rest might as well be spent on improving people's lives."

Jonathan highly encourages those looking to improve lives with technology to take up HIT.

"The HIT Lab is all about using technology to help people. You will be making a difference in people's lives and that in itself is a rewarding experience. If anything I can do will make a difference in improving their quality of life, then my time at UC has been well spent."

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