As a grown up, you might shy away from accepting it but somehow, we all shared a special bond with our toys. As a child, we all had a favorite doll which used to be our forever companion, no matter where we were or what we did. We would secretly sneak it in our school bags, share all our secrets with it , enjoy the moment of happiness and sorrow together. This doll used to be the cornerstone in our life. It was like having a partner who would stand by you through thick and thin,

“My Special Aflac Doll” has taken the warmth of this friendship to another level.

Aflac and Sproutel have designed a robotic comfort toy to help kids being treated for cancer. “My Special Aflac Doll ” is an amalgamation of toy, robot and medical device. Most importantly it’s a promise to these children that they are not alone in their battle against cancer. The end goal of the duck is to be a source of comfort to kids suffering from cancer and to assist them in coping up with the treatment.

So how does this toy work?

Sproutel devoted a year in understanding the journey that children, families and professionals go through while dealing with cancer. The research assisted in making the external look and behavioral responses of the duck

Fundamentally, Aflac Duck is a animatronic duck which is covered with feathers, wings, beak and webbed feat. The highlight of the robot is its special sensor that responds to touch by children, a microphone and a light sensor that adapts itself to different environmental conditions.

This extremely cuddly duck is designed to respond in specific manners to certain movements. It will quack in delight, it also dances, nuzzles and exhibits life like natural movement. In addition, there’s a heartbeat emulator on the duck’s head which patients can feel and can calm their breathing nervousness.nA beaming ET like light is placed on the chest of the duck. Over it ,kids can place one of the RFID- enabled feeler card that have various emotion ascribed on them. Kids choose, different emotion badges which are usually representations of how they feel.

For instance — When a sad card is touched to the duck’s chest, the duck droops its head and quacks sadly. A happy card makes the duck dance and quack cheerfully .

The best part is that the same chest sensor has a chemotherapy PICC line attachment which lets kids witness their duck friend go through the same treatment as them.

Seeing their toy undergoing the treatment makes the children feel confident and in turn gives them the strength to go through the medical procedures.

The duck also has a ‘rocket ship’ that lets the children pick their preferred ‘happy place’ — either an amusement park or a garden, and ‘transports’ them there, with speakers playing an imitative soundscape, and an app playing a video of the locale.

Aflac chairman and CEO Dan Amos said the insurance company’s goal is to get the duck into the hands of kids newly diagnosed with cancer for free.

Each duck costs approximately $200 (around £150, AU$255), but Aflac will donate these robot companions at no cost to any child newly diagnosed with cancer.

At a personal level, I believe that though for many years, we lived with a hypothesis that technology can’t emote humanly emotions but I guess it can definitely give a certain degree of comfort.

New technology is paving ways to imbibe emotions in animated objects and My Aflac Duck evidently shows this to us like never before. It would be a beautiful sight to see children at ease while dealing with cancer.

Hoping to see more such technology in the future.

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