Sophia Zuniga, a three-year old cancer patient, kisses her new My Special Aflac Duck, a robotic companion designed to comfort her and other pediatric cancer patients throughout their treatment, after receiving this special gift at CHOC Children's Hospital in Orange, Calif. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Sophia Zuniga, 3, hugs her My Special Aflac Duck robot. (Photo: Aflac)

A foundation affiliated with Aflac Inc. has given toy robots that look like the Aflac Duck to children who are facing cancer in about 200 U.S. hospitals and clinics, Aflac said today.

The Columbus, Georgia-based company started distributing My Special Aflac Duck robots last year.

Aflac Chairman Dan Amos said in a statement that getting the robots into children’s hands brings the Aflac family great joy. “We look forward to continuing toward our goal of getting a duck into the arms of the more than 15,000 children diagnosed with cancer in America each year,” Amos said in the statement.

(Related: 5 Top Countries for Robot Care Expectations)

Aflac has invested about $3 million in the Aflac Duck robot project, the company said.

The goal of the project is to give each child who is undergoing treatment for cancer a huggable friend.

Aflac has been working with Sproutel Inc., a health care technology development company, to develop the robot.

Aflac began holding special robot delivery events in 2018, at health care facilities in Atlanta; Houston; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbia, South Carolina.

Aflac held a special delivery event last week in Orange, California, at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

The Robots

Children who get the Aflac Duck robot can use an app to bathe the robot, feed it and give it medicine through a chemotherapy port.

Children can also make the robot communicate emotions, by tapping one of seven different “feeling cards” to the robot’s chest.

The robot has a removable, washable skin, and the makers have equipped each box with batteries, so that children can play with their ducks as soon as they open the box.

The Money

Aflac — a company best known for selling cancer insurance at the worksite, in the United States and in Japan — has contributed about $134 million to projects related to pediatric cancer since 1995, the company said.

The spending total includes “more than $500,000 donated each month by 17,000 independent agents licensed to sell Aflac products,” Aflac said. “The funds are committed directly from their monthly commission checks.”

— Read In Japan, the Rise of the Machines Solves Labor and Productivityon ThinkAdvisor.

— Connect with ThinkAdvisor Life/Health on LinkedIn and Twitter.