Earlier this year, insurance company Aflac introduced a robot designed to comfort children undergoing extensive medical treatments. Called the “My Special Aflac Duck,” the device is exactly what it sounds like: a robot shaped like a duck, which is fitted with a soft pelt and paired with large tokens that control its mood. Now, months later, Aflac has started deploying its therapy duck in hospitals around the US.
In an announcement today, Aflac revealed that it has delivered the first batch of robotic ducks to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The therapy device is provided to children undergoing cancer treatments, offering them comfort and a way to help express how they’re feeling to others.
The My Special Aflac Duck features like-life movements and can respond to interactions, such as tilting its head when its cheek is scratched. Sproutel, the company that created the duck, provides a mobile app for Android and iOS, as well as “feeling cards” that look like large tokens. These RFID-enabled cards can be touched to the duck’s chest, causing it to respond with the feeling linked to the card.
This feature is intended to help kids express how they’re feeling. The mobile app, meanwhile, supports augmented reality, enabling kids to feed the duck, bathe it, and give it medicine (virtually, that is). The robot also features a chemotherapy port to mirror the care the child receives.
Other features include a realistic heartbeat and deep breathing actions, which help provide comfort and relaxation to the child. There’s a dance mode that activates when music is played, plus users can activate customizable sounds, including farm, waves, and wind noise. Later on this year, Aflac plans to provide the duck to more hospitals throughout the US, giving them for free to children ages 3 to 13 who have been diagnosed with cancer.