Every year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, some incredible tech is revealed, with robots being an ongoing trend. Last week, one of the most wonderful robots was exhibited – the Aflac Duck, to help kids with cancer.
Called My Special Aflac Duck, the fluffy toy robot is the result of a partnership between insurance company Aflac (their “mascot” is a duck) and robotics toy company Sproutel.
The aim of the duck is to give kids who are going through chemo comfort. The duck has five sensors that react to touch, a microphone and a light sensor that adapts to different environments and changes the duck’s behaviour. The duck is able to dance and nuzzle, and even has a heartbeat and breath. It quacks when tickled, and can waggle its head.
The duck also has a chemotherapy port and other treatment accessories so that kids can better resonate with it. Via an app with augmented reality, kids can feed and bath, so that they are the carers in this situation.
The duck also comes with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags so that kids can express how they’re feeling. To activate, they can put one of the emoji tags on the duck’s chest, after which the duck will react with a happy quack or a groan. As the duck mirrors their emotions, the kids feel less alone in the treatment process.
My Special Aflac Duck has an IV mode that when activated will cause the duck’s head to make gentle heartbeat-like pulses to calm children down and focus on steady breathing exercises when taking their chemotherapy.
The tags also lets kids change the duck’s “mood” from happy to sad to quirky to serious to nauseous or sad or mad.
The duck won’t be commercially available and Aflac says it will give the duck for free to kids who have cancer around the US, starting first with its Atlanta-based cancer centre. They also aim to partner with other cancer-support hospitals and programmes to get the duck to thousands of families this year.
Have a look at this wonderful video to see how the duck works: