Aflac’s cute mascot, the talking duck, does more than just try to sell insurance. The company has been committed to caring and treating children with cancer for more than 22 years; donating $120 million over that period. In its latest effort, Aflac worked with digital design and story-telling firm Sproutel to create My Special Aflac Duck, giving a stuffed toy the robotic treatment to help the duck comfort children’s cancer patients and make a positive change in the lives of children with childhood cancer.
There are more than 11,000 cases of childhood cancer annually in the U.S., and on average, children go through 1,000 days of treatment. More than most patients, children need emotional support to go through treatments, to communicate their feelings to caregivers, and not feel helpless in the face of cancer.
My Special Aflac Duck integrates social robotics into the field of medicine. With four patents pending (and a design award from 2018 CES), My Special Aflac Duck gives kids with cancer the chance to find joy by playing with it; helps kids engage by playing soothing sounds and calming heartbeats; and helps kids connect by being able to treat Duck just like they are being treated with IV and medicine. A special backpack provided with Duck includes an IV and emoji badges that help communicate feelings.
Duck has five touch sensors that help it connect with children through its facial expressions, sounds, and movements. It also has a special app that lets kids design special places to go to virtually where they can find comfort and joy.
Quack in support of helping children with cancer!
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Discuss how companies can be socially responsible in their communities.
- Show The Verge’s video story about the Duck: https://youtu.be/LQy-qn_JMoM
- Show Aflac’s Web site for Duck: https://aflacchildhoodcancer.org/
- Sproutel’s Web site contains additional information on Jerry the Bear (diabetes care for children): https://www.sproutel.com/
- In teams, have students select an illness that affects youths. What could they develop to help these young patients cope with their illnesses?
- What companies could partner with them on the initiative. Why?
- Finally, as an option, there is a 10-minute TED Talk by the founder of Sproutel about how play can help children to deal with illness: https://www.ted.com/watch/ted-institute/ted-ibm/aaron-horowitz-can-a-teddybear-change-how-children-relate-to-their-own-disease
Source: Hutchinson, M. (8 Jan. 2018) Robotic duck aims to help kids cope with cancer. Associated Press.