December 17, 2011
Just in time for the holiday buffet tables and New Year’s resolutions, a new weight-loss robot named Autom has hit the market.
This cute, lifelike machine looks at you, talks to you, and even blinks “her” blue eyes at you. Autom is designed to have a 3- to 5-minute conversation with you every day, where you tell her about your diet, exercise, and weight (using her touchscreen) and she gives you advice and feedback. (I can’t help but call Autom a “she” – clearly they’re doing something right.) Here are some examples:
“Can you tell me how many calories you’ve eaten today? I know it’s difficult to figure out the exact number, but I’ll help you to try your best.”
“It’s great that you’ve gotten near your diet goal today. I hope the rest of the week goes well for you also.”
“Try to watch your portion size when eating out, which is a very hard thing for many people to do. Maybe eat half and bring the rest home for another meal.”
“You should choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. It will make your meals more interesting and give you more of the nutrients you need.”
Autom will track your eating, based on stored calorie information for about 75,000 foods and learn about you over time. She works with any type of diet, and multiple people can use the same robot. Five pounds and electrically powered, she receives software updates by wifi Internet every month.
According to studies by her creator, Hong Kong-based Intuitive Automata, Autom surpasses other digital weight-loss methods like web and mobile applications. Founder Cory Kidd believes this is because robots, as an engaging physical product, provide some novelty and seem more credible than anonymous text on a screen. (He admits that a personal trainer would be best, but that’s too expensive for most people.)
Autom is based on a decade of Kidd’s research on human-robot interaction, psychology, and medicine at MIT, where he did his PhD, and at Boston University Medical Center. Originally from Louisiana, Kidd considered starting up in Boston or Silicon Valley, but eventually settled on Hong Kong because it’s cheaper to do business there and close to manufacturing in China.
Deliveries to the United States start in January 2012 – $199 for Autom plus a $19.99/month subscription. You can order here. Unfortunately, Intuitive Automata can only guarantee arrival within 6 months of your order.
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