Aflac, has unveiled a “smart” robotic companion for children who have cancers, called My Special Aflac Duck. The company unveiled the new high-tech invention at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The social robot has already been recognized as the winner of the prestigious Tech for a Better World Innovation Award at CES 2018. This caring companion reflects Aflac’s history as a pioneer in cancer insurance and the company’s belief that children need more than medicine to help cope with the disease.
“For 22 years, Aflac, our employees and our independent sales agents have demonstrated a commitment to help families facing childhood cancer, including contributing more than $120 million to this cause,” Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos said. “We are taking this commitment to a new level, lending our iconic Aflac Duck to this mission in an innovative way like we have never done before. Our goal is to put a My Special Aflac Duck in the hands of the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge, so that no child ever has to face cancer alone.”
My Special Aflac Duck, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign and developed by Sproutel, features naturalistic movements and joyful play to help distract children coping with cancer. With four patents pending and a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a smart comforting companion that helps children feel less alone by using interactive technology during their cancer treatment. A compatible web-based app enables children to mirror their care routines, including medical play, feeding and bathing via augmented-reality. The smart companion emulates young patients’ moods, endures the same often-painful therapies, and dances, quacks and nuzzles to help comfort children when they need it most.
“On average, childhood cancer treatment lasts more than 1,000 days, and we thought there must be something we can do to help alleviate some of the burden,” said Aaron J. Horowitz, CEO and co-founder of Sproutel, developers of Jerry the Bear, a successful interactive companion that helps kids with diabetes manage their health. “So we designed My Special Aflac Duck to help provide comfort and joy through engaging play. Most importantly, we want to empower children by giving them a friend who can help them express their emotions. We are excited to work with Aflac, whose commitment to children with cancer has been incredibly inspiring.”
In early 2018, Aflac and Sproutel will begin delivering the My Special Aflac Duck to children at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for further testing. The smart companion is expected to be available to children with cancer nationwide in winter 2018-2019.
“For the first time in brand history, Aflac is allowing its beloved icon to come to life through innovative technology focusing on comforting kids, while leading a social movement around childhood cancers,” Kathelen Amos, president of The Aflac Foundation, Inc. said. “We know that cancer is too big for any one company or organization to address alone, so with the introduction of My Special Aflac Duck, we hope the Aflac Duck’s popularity will help inspire more people to get involved and advance this cause.”