It may seem like a pretty unusual concept: a toy duck that can help children with cancer, but that’s exactly what Aaron Horowitz’s robotic duck can do.
It’s a social robot that can greatly improve a child’s mood, reflecting emotions a child may often feel when finding out they have cancer. For example, it can make them laugh, express anger, be happy, sad and much more – all very important emotions for those suffering.
The soft, fluffy duck has been developed alongside insurance company Aflac and so has been named after the company. The company is providing children around the US with a unit for free to make their experience more bearable.
The company has already started distributing the to children around the country, with 12-year old Ethan one of the first recipients. Ethan has B-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma and he has just started on his treatment journey, with another three years of treatment scheduled. Ethan’s mother, Kelli Daniels says the duck has had a positive impact already.
“It’s a way for Ethan to express himself without actually having to say it, because you don’t want to always say ‘I hurt,’” Kelli Daniels told ABC News. “He feels like he hurts all the time.”
The duck s the second comfort robot Jerry the Bear was created to help children with diabetes. Children with the condition are encouraged to understand their treatment better by feeding the bear, giving him insulin and monitoring his blood glucose levels.
“Out of this came the idea of, ‘Why can’t we do it for other types of kids?'” Horowitz said. And so he began creating a toy for the 11,000 children who have developed cancer.