Insurance firm Aflac Inc. has partnered with robotic toy company Sproutel to develop a robotic duck designed to comfort children going through cancer treatments.
My Special Aflac Duck™ features five touch sensors and cuddles back when children pet or snuggle it. It also comes with a bag of RFID tags, each featuring a different emotion. Kids can hold one of the disc-shaped tags that matches their emotion for the day up to the duck’s chest, and the toy then reacts to “empathize” with the emotion. These features work toward the goal of developing a comfort object to help children feel they are not alone in their treatment process, which can average 1,000 days or more.
The duck additionally includes a toy IV set to help children feel less afraid of chemotherapy treatment. It also features an “IV mode” in which its head begins gently pulsing to calm children and allow them to focus on breathing during IVs.
The duck’s removable fur shell is washable to prevent the spread of hospital germs and bacteria. The risk of infection is one factor keeping therapy pets out of cancer treatment areas, so the Special Aflac Duck provides a robotic solution to patient comfort.
Aflac exhibited the toy at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. After trial runs with patients at its Atlanta cancer treatment center, the company looks to partner with more cancer support programs by the end of this year.