“RI Tech and Innovation Report”— Big Win at SXSW by Sproutel, Slater and More

‘My Special Duck’ big winner at SXSW PHOTO: Sproutel The people have spoken.

Not only did Sproutel take home the top award in the Robotics and Hardware category at the 22nd annual SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards Presented by KPMG, but the company—along with their co-creators—also took home the people’s choice award for the My Special Aflac Duck, a “comforting companion” for children with cancer.

“I’m so very proud of our team for both awards, and they represent very different achievements,” said Aaron Horowitz, co-founder and CEO. “For me, the People’s Choice Award means a lot because it was chosen by all of the attendees. I was blown away by so many of the companies and products I saw at SXSW so this award, in particular, was a great honor.”

Sproutel developed the duck, which is controlled via an app, for insurance company Aflac. The ‘My Special Duck’ made its way to pediatric cancer patients—after being tested by patients currently undergoing treatment—last September. Since then, Sproutel and Aflac have donated 3,000 ducks to patients in nearly 150 hospitals.

The two companies share their awards with Carol Cone on Purpose—a leading cause-branding developer—and The Nation of Artists—a company that specializes in branding content among other ventures. “This product has truly been a labor of love for our entire company,” Horowitz said. “We worked with over 100 children undergoing chemotherapy to collaboratively design the duck with the goals of delivering comfort and joy. Our team is very proud to have this work highlighted, especially at an event like SXSW. We were truly surprised and humbled.”

My Special Aflac Duck “comes to life through naturalistic movement and distinct emotions” and uses an interactive app to allow children to explore their duck’s virtual world.

According to Sproutel’s website, Aflac’s goal is to donate a duck to every child in the United States newly diagnosed with cancer.

Horowitz and co-founder Hannah Chung established Sproutel in 2012. Prior to this award, the company was most well-known for Jerry the Bear, again a stuffed animal controlled via an app, that teaches children with type 1 diabetes how to handle their health.

Sproutel advertises that each team member has had an experience with illness and health management that makes working to improve the lives of children dealing with major health issues a purposeful passion.

“Each member of our team brings their own personal passion for our work to the table when we develop products,” Horowitz said. “All of these unique experiences help us give empathy, which is invaluable to the outcome of our design process.”

And, what is next for the team at Sproutel?

“There are a few new products on our workbench for this year, but it’s a little too early to share any details,” Horowitz said.

He did say Sproutel will be hiring for a few new positions within the next couple months, so if you want to be on the team of this company that cares, check on sproutel.com for updates. SEE MORE TECH UPDATES BELOW

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