Well, this isn’t a gaming article, per se, but an item that greatly affected me when I was out and about. It’s a duck, a robotic duck from Aflac and St. Jude’s Hospital. I spent a few days at this year’s CES 2018, returning to the Las Vegas strip for a few days of rain-soaked, power outage-filled events, smart robots getting stage fright on the international stage, and charged speeches from Chinese business executives. This year, smart devices and fancy TVs lined the halls, accessories for the newly released iPhone X lined the roads, and startups vied for attention from the international media and attending investors.

While I attended a few gaming appointments and saw the unveiling of new gear from companies like Corsair, HyperX, and Cherry MX, the one story that caught my attention was a simplistic one with very few bells and whistles, that of a robotic duck.

Before the hall shut off power from a failed power grid due to the rain, I took my last day and ran into this duck. The booth happened to bring out an actual duck, which makes sense because it was representing Aflac. Aflac, though, had partnered with St. Jude’s Hospital, and designed a duck companion for children undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

As a currently studying student pharmacist, patient care is always at the forefront that we learn about in the curriculum, and how we should be taking steps to enhance the quality of care we deliver. This dancing, quacking duck is an emulator of the complex emotions that these cancer-ridden children are unable to express properly. Using technology such as RFID and simplistic artificial intelligence, the child can apply one of these RFID-enabled chips to the duck, which expresses a variety of emotions such as happiness, sadness, excitement, and even fear in the face of a saline needle attachment. When it’s being rubbed and coddled, the duck quacks and waddles, with a slightly rosy glow in its cheeks. These kids receive injections, which isn’t exactly the grandest of times, and they at least can now hold onto this fuzzy companion to go through the process with them.

The story from the team who helped design this duck is embedded below; at CES this team won many accolades from the media and visiting attendees for its innovativeness and direction. In a show where companies bring out their biggest exhibits in costly demos, this relatively simplistic duck stole many hearts, including mine! According to what I’ve been reading about further with this duck, My Special Aflac Duck, St. Jude’s Hospital has agreed to distribute these ducks to every cancer patient in the United States, eventually. It’s a great sign for healthcare, a wonderful use of technology, and a brilliant way to enhance patient quality.

Image from The Verge, video recorded by C|NET.