Some may argue that robots can never be truly happy without humans to tyrannize and enslave. Introducing Autom from Hong Kong-based Intuitive Automata, an interactive robotic weight loss coach that helps track your meals and exercise regiment. In a bid to keep dietiers motivated and engaged, Autom — a "sociable" robot — offers personalized encouragement and advice.
Mash up Teddy Ruxpin and a touch-screeny Palm Pilot, add some scary eye-tracking robot eyes and internet connectivity, give it a gender (female) and a modicum of artificial intelligence, and well, there you go: Weight Loss Robot!
And a little creepy! During beta testing, people developed personal relationships with Autom units, essentially humanizing them: "Maya, Casper and Robbie were among the names users gave their robots. Some even dressed them in hats and scarves." And it's that sort of engagement that the Autom offers that makes it an effective weight-loss tool. In human-robot interaction studies, robots "can be seen as more credible and informative than a character on the screen," the developer wrote, suggesting that the humanoid shape lends it a certain personality that an iPhone or laptop screen could never deliver.
Originally developed by Cory Kidd as a research project in human-robot interaction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, the current plan is for it to hit the US market in December for $400 to $500. And with reason, cash in they will: An optional monthly subscription plan is in the works, Kidd told Plastic Pals, offering people the option to "upload their data and access it via the web site as well as have the robot updated with data they enter through other devices."
But we must ask! Will there be software plug-ins with different styles of weight-loss coaching? Offering shouty admonishment, or guilting and shaming you into action? It could yell "Drop and give me twenty, fattie!" as its eyes glow red, disabling access to your internet-enabled refrigerator, preventing you from the leaving the house by locking down the security system, all until you lose five pounds.
Autom Promo Video
September 2009 News Report
Autom [Photos: Intuitive Automata]
· Intuitive Automata [Official Site]
· Brief Q & A with Intuitive Automata’s founder, Dr. Cory Kidd [Plastic Pals]
· Robot takes on battle of the bulge [AFP]
· Original MIT Project [MIT]
· All Robots Coverage on Eater [-ENA-]