March 20, 2019

Creative Kudos: My Special Aflac Duck helps fight cancer


Speaking of Kotek and robots, he knows a thing or two about how social robots can be used for good. He recently directed a short film about “My Special Aflac Duck” – an interactive companion for children who are being treated for cancer.

My Special Aflac Duck is more than a stuffed animal – children can listen to the duck’s heartbeat and breathing, feed and bathe it, and care for it in a number of other ways. They can even “treat” the duck with chemotherapy and use it to relay how they’re feeling to doctors – feelings which are then expressed through natural, state-of-the-art robotic movements. The duck gives kids a round-the-clock buddy and fellow patient to share in their experience and an ever-present distraction from their treatment. Aflac will donate a duck to every child between the ages of 3 and 13 who’s diagnosed with cancer in the United States.

Kotek’s film about My Special Aflac Duck – which showed the audience footage of children playing with and treating the duck at the hospital – received more than 2 billion media impressions, and earned an audience award at SXSW 2019. For helping to inform people about how emerging technology can be used to comfort and empower children who have cancer, Kotek deserves all this recognition and then some.

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