Stroke survivors recover with video game

'Duck Duck Punch' provides 'hope for the hopeless'

Published on Monday, July 20, 2015


Hayes and Hodges have been working with Michelle Woodbury, an associate professor and director of the Upper Extremity Motor Function Lab at MUSC.

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Nancy Bunch used

Sarah Pack /MUSC Office of Public Relations

Nancy Bunch used "Duck Duck Punch" as part of her stroke recovery therapy.


“Everything about the game was developed in conjunction with her,” Hodges said. “We’re the computer guys. She knows what stroke survivors really need to regain reuse of their arms.”

The origins of the game go back to 2011 when Hodges and Woodbury met at a MUSC conference that brought researchers together to look for possible collaborations.

Woodbury told the group about her idea for a game that would encourage patients to do stroke-recovery exercises. Hodges knew that the technical know-how could be found at Clemson, where he is a professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division in the School of Computing.

Hodges told Hayes, then a Ph.D. student, about the game idea. They began work on a prototype. A year later, it took second out of more than 500 entries at the 2012 Microsoft Imagine Cup in Sydney, Australia.

The team formed Recovr in 2013 to help expand “Duck Duck Punch.” Hayes set aside his Ph.D. plans to become the company’s full-time CEO.

“I knew that if it just stayed in the research lab, it was going to be awesome but for a limited number of people,” Hayes said. “We wanted to pull it out and see it help more people in more locations. I really wanted to do well and do good at the same. To make an impact on someone’s daily life, that’s really rewarding for me.”

Hodges serves as COO. Kevin Jett, who is graduating in the fall with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Clemson, is the company’s software engineer.

Recovr is now one of two companies, both from Clemson, in the Concepts to Companies portfolio. The founders, John Warner and Brian McSharry, help turn academic ideas into commercial enterprises by investing capital and offering their business expertise.

“‘Duck Duck Punch’ is a great illustration of collaboration between Clemson University and Medical University of South Carolina,” Warner said. “It shows that South Carolina has high quality intellectual capital. There is a huge need for this kind of product, and it’s growing. We’re expecting big things from Recovr.”

Eileen Kraemer, the C. Tycho Howle director of the School of Computing, said she was proud that Recovr’s roots trace back to the school.

“Duck Duck Punch could have a global impact on stroke survivors not only in the United States but around the world,” she said. “We’ve got some of the best, brightest and most inventive students and faculty members in the country.”

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science, said that “Duck Duck Punch” was an excellent example of how “translational research” can take research projects from the lab to a patient’s bedside.

“We’re creating a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders,” Gramopadhye said. “They are not only qualified to take jobs, but they are also prepared to create jobs. It’s exciting to see Clemson students, alumni and faculty members put that into practice. The Recovr team has a bright future.”




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