A plush, robotic duck may soon become a fixture in the world of children who have cancer - a social robot that can be silly, happy, angry, scared or sick just like them, and help them cope creatively with their illness through the power of play.
Cuddly, cute, and crammed with sensors that allow it to interact with people, this duck is the brainchild of insurance company Aflac and R&D workshop Sproutel.
It's good for medical play, with features like a port-a-cath with an RFID chip for children to familiarize themselves with the chemotherapy process. It has RFID-enabled emoji cards so children can use the duck to express their emotions.
The duck, developed by robotics expert Aaron Horowitz and his company, is undergoing testing and is expected to be widely distributed by the end of this year.
Horowitz said he was diagnosed as a child with human growth development deficiency and had to give himself daily injections for five years. The experience, he said, made him want to help other children with illnesses, which led to his co-founding of the Rhode Island-based company Sproutel with a partner he met at Northwestern University.