Special Ducks Help Comfort Children Who Are Battling Cancer - NBC Chicago

Special Ducks Help Comfort Children Who Are Battling Cancer

The ducks interact with kids, can be fed or bathed, and play soothing sounds

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AI Duck Helps to Comfort Kids Battling Cancer

    A specially designed duck is helping children cope with their feelings as they battle cancer. NBC 5's Charlie Wojciechowski has the incredible story. 

    (Published Friday, April 12, 2019)

    An incredible invention is helping kids cope with the struggles of battling cancer, providing comfort, companionship, and joy to children across the country.

    The invention, called “My Special Aflac Duck,” was named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2018, and it’s easy to see why, as kids rapidly grow attached to them.

    “We consider the duck a social robot,” inventor Aaron J. Horowitz said. “He is a constant companion for kids that can really share in the experience that they are having, and can give them a better tool to communicate how they feel.”

    The duck responds to the touch of a child’s hands, and can even indicate that it’s being tickled, quacking rapidly when it’s tickled under its wings.

    Kids can communicate with the duck by using emoji-like sound cards that they can hold up to the duck’s chest.

    “It allows the duck to become a proxy, and it’s much less stressful for kids to say ‘my duck,’” Horowitz said. “They say things like ‘Quacky’s not feeling so hot today’ or ‘he’s kind of mad that he has to go through chemotherapy.’”

    Children can interact with the duck in a wide variety of ways, with features that allow kids to feed and bathe the duck.

    In addition to quacking, the duck can play soothing sounds, calming heartbeats, and can take deep breaths, encouraging children to follow suit.

    “This sound card, shaped like a spaceship, can transport (the duck) to a calmer place,” Horowitz said. “This is useful for things like meditation treatments.”

    More than 3,500 ducks have been distributed to more than 150 hospitals across America, including Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, but Horowitz and his company Spoutel are dreaming even bigger.

    “We want to get a duck to every child diagnosed with cancer in the United States,” he said.

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