My Special Aflac Duck Companion for Children with Cancer

The My Special Aflac Duck is Latest Innovation for Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign

Aflac, a leader in voluntary insurance sales at the worksite in the United States, 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 recognised as the winner of the prestigious Tech for a Better World Innovation Award at CES 2018. This caring companion reflects the company’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, the company, our employees and our independent sales agents have demonstrated a commitment to help families facing childhood cancer, including contributing more than US $120 million/£88.55 million to this cause. 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,” said company Chairman and CEO, Dan Amos.

My Special Aflac Duck, part of the company’s ongoing 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-centred 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. 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 the company, whose commitment to children with cancer has been incredibly inspiring,” 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.

In early 2018, the company 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 across the US in winter 2018-2019.

“For the first time in brand history, the company is allowing its beloved icon to come to life through innovative technology focusing on comforting kids, while leading a social movement around childhood cancers. We know that cancer is too big for any one company or organisation to address alone, so with the introduction of My Special Aflac Duck, we hope the Duck’s popularity will help inspire more people to get involved and advance this cause,” said  Kathelen Amos, President of The Aflac Foundation, Inc.