Hospitals will use robot ducks to comfort kids with cancer

The cute machines are now making their way to children's hospitals in the US.

Aflac's robotic therapy ducks have started waddling their way to children's cancer hospitals nationwide after making their debut at CES earlier this year. The company is distributing the robotic waterfowl through a series of events as part of its activities for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It started with the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, where kids were sent on a scavenger hunt to find their very own high-tech chubby companion. Later this month, Aflac will distribute the second batch of therapy ducks at the Palmetto Health Children's Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina.

My Special Aflac duck was created to be educational and therapeutic, with features especially designed to comfort kids with cancer. It has RFID-enabled emoji cards on its chest that allows patients to choose a "feeling" they want the machine to reflect. If they choose the frowny face, for instance, the duck wil lower its head, slouch and let out a sad whimper.

It also has a port with an RFID chip kids can use to pretend they're giving the duck chemotherapy. And parents can download the feathery machine's accompanying app for iOS and Android, where kids can bathe, feed and give it medicine. The company says those features give the children a sense of control during their treatment. In addition, the duck has a heartbeat and deep breathing features that can be used to calm the patients. While the current rollout only covers two hospitals, Aflac plans to expand its campaign to hospitals across the US later this year, providing newly diagnosed kids aged 3 to 13 years old with a robotic duck free of charge.