John Harris wins third place at Velocity Graduate Student Fund finals to help turn asymmetric games into a startup

Thursday, April 4, 2019

PhD candidate John Harris won third place at the Velocity Graduate Student Fund finals, a contest in which graduate students competed for an opportunity to win funds to help them develop their research projects into businesses. 

photo of John Harris

Harris won the $5,000 prize for his company called The Playful Pixel, a large-scale, face-to-face hybrid digital board game experience for 30 to 300 players, augmented with networked digital devices and sensor-embedded smart props to help strengthen social relationships. Harris’s research focuses on the design and development of strong asymmetry in games as a means of promoting inclusiveness and diversity in play.

“Playing games with family and friends helps strengthen relationships, but it can be difficult to find games that provide enriching social interactions while accommodating the wide variety of player types, ability levels, genre preferences and social roles,” Harris explained. “Can we get grandparents playing with grandchildren? Physical therapists playing with their patients? Brothers with sisters? The goal of my research is to create games that bridge these gaps.”

Velocity is an entrepreneurship program at the University of Waterloo, comprised of programs for Waterloo students and an incubator of promising startups of any origin. From an idea to development to commercialization, Velocity provides the knowledge, tools, space, and network that startups and entrepreneurs need for success.

The Velocity Graduate Student Startup Fund is made possible through the generosity of Sam Pasupalak, a successful Velocity founder and computer science alumnus (BCS 2012). Pasupalak co-founded the artificial intelligence company Maluuba, which focused on teaching machines to think, reason and communicate. Maluuba was acquired by Microsoft in 2017. 

More about John and the other Velocity Graduate Student Fund winners

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