Meet The Team


Dr. TONY LIAO (PH.D., COrnell university)

Dr. Tony Liao (Ph.D, Cornell University) is an Associate Professor of Digital Media in the Information Sciences Technologies Department. He founded the CougAR lab at the University of Houston to explore how augmented reality and mixed reality technologies could affect society now and in the future. The lab offers research assistants access to some of the most cutting edge augmented and virtual reality devices, and welcomes any UH students interested in conductin g research studies, developing AR/VR technologies, and getting hands on experience with emerging technology.

Dr. Liao brings over a decade of experience of studying AR/VR technologies, and his research has been published in leading academic outlets such as New Media & Society, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Information, Communication, & Society, Social Media & Society, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Mobile Media & Communication, Information and Organization, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Communication Studies, the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (SIGCHI), Ethics and Information Technology, Journal of Communication Pedagogy, and First Monday.

His work on the future of AR technologies, how AR affects people’s sense of space/place, how people interact and communicate through various cues in mixed reality environments, has been covered in Bloomberg, Flaunt Magazine, Undark Magazine, NewCo, and several other media outlets. He has also appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences, and the Taft Foundation at the University of Cincinnati, and he has been invited to given talks at the Hewlett Packard Data Science Institute, National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, and several other academic and industry conferences all over the world.

Dr. Liao earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, masters degreefrom Cornell University, and a Ph.D in Communication from Cornell University. Prior to comingto the University of Houston, Dr. Liao has held faculty appointments at Temple University and the University of Cincinnati.

He is always looking to work with students in the CougAR Lab, and many former students have continued to do research as tenure track professors as well as work for corporate research teams such as Meta Reality Labs. Please feel free to contact him and reach out about any questions/opportunities regarding the CougAR Lab at


Javier blanco

Javier is a senior at the University of Houston where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media with a minor in Technology Leadership & Innovation Management. In addition to his studies, he works as a lab manager and research assistant at the CougAR Lab. His main career interests involve the intersection of emergent technologies with interface development, user experience design, and behavioral psychology. Through his work with the lab, he hopes to explore the interaction between augmented, virtual, mixed reality technologies and users, and gain a deeper understanding of the potential and limitations of these technologies.


JaRED schuette

Jared is a Digital Media senior at UH with an emphasis in Motion Media and a minor in business Administration. He assists the CougAR lab with research and VR development projects. While in the lab, Jared practices producing VR content with a variety of hardware in the mixed reality space.


Haley arispe

Haley Arispe is a senior pursuing her Bachelor of Science at the University of Houston - College of Technology and Engineering. She is majoring in Digital Media with a minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management. She possesses a wide range of skills that combine innovative art and design principles. As a multidisciplinary designer and photographer, Haley creates brand experiences, digital experiences, immersive virtual experiences, and editorial images. Currently, she is a Digital Marketing Intern for Disney's Media and Distribution at KTRK ABC13 Broadcast Television Station.

creative & media team


Tom Pham is a Senior majoring in Digital Media. He is part of the creative and media team for the CougAR Lab. He has been learning about AR/VR from Dr. Liao, while also interning at a VR software startup. Tom is interested in the potential of AR/VR as a versatile training and educational tool. He is looking forward to future opportunities in the field of extended reality.


Lance dones

Lance is a senior pursuing a degree in Digital Media at the University of Houston. He is Digital Media Strategist and Producer and is currently part of a group undertaking a study on VR's effect on empathizing with those experiencing homelessness.


julie lai

Julie is a Senior majoring in Digital Media at the University of Houston. Her current emphasis is AR/VR development and she is currently working on improving her skills in C# and Unity.


matthew buoy

Matthew is a junior year student in the Digital Media program that is pursuing a minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management. He is the Equipment Manager and Research Assistant for the CougAR lab. Relevant work and course experience includes Student IT, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Video Production, Photography, and Data Visualization. His research interest includes how Virtual and Augmented reality can be used to help humanity through education, and communication as well as how VR communication branches off from standard online communication.


Rebecca castelan

Rebecca is a junior studying Digital Media at the University of Houston. She is a research assistant for the CougAR Lab and is interested in exploring the use of AR/VR in education and marketing.



Debriunna Porter is a Digital Media major and is completing her 3rd year at the University of Houston. Debriunna is a Research Assistant in the CougAR lab with research interests that lie in Digital Marketing, Psychology, social behaviors, and eCommerce. Work experience lies in programming, photography, photo editing, and digital design.


emily moore

Emily is a freshman Digital Media student at the University of Houston. She is a Research Assistant interested in how social interaction is affected by various digital avatars in a Virtual Reality environment.


tj alLwine

Tj is a freshman pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media with an emphasis in Emerging Media and a minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management. His research interest is how emerging technologies may benefit or disadvantage individuals with chronic illness or disability and the potential of those technologies as tools for education.



Afaf is currently a sophomore at the University of Houston pursuing a degree in Digital Media. She is a research assistant with a specific interest in the impact of VR/AR pets on mental health. Additionally, Afaf also has a passion for graphic design and looks forward to exploring more in the digital media field.