Autom wants to make you healthier. This little robot keeps track of your eating and exercise habits -- and encourages you to stay in shape.
Autom speaks with a synthetic female voice, and you interact with it using its touch-screen belly. It won't scold you if you ate two desserts last night; Autom is a very kind robot.
But can it really help you lose weight?
We met Autom, and one of its creators, Cory Kidd, co-founder and CEO of Intuitive Automata, at CES early this month.
Kidd claims that, yes, Autom can help people lose weight. The robot is more effective than weight-loss websites and smartphone apps, he says, because people develop a bond with the robot and stick with it longer.
Kidd started developing Automa few years ago while a grad student at MIT, and with two colleagues he founded Intuitive Automata, which is based in Hong Kong, to commercialize the robot.
Watch Kidd explaining how Autom works:
I think they are onto something here, but I see some limitations in the current robot. First, the speech synthesis is very robotic. Second, the robot has no voice recognition at all. it would be nice if the robot could speak more naturally and if at least basic interactions -- like answering "yes" or "no" -- could happen via voice. The good thing is the company might be able to improve these features in the future with software updates.
Another question is whether consumers want a robotic weight-loss coach in the first place, and how much they're willing to shell out.
Intuitive Automata plans to start selling Autom on its website later this year for around US $500 or $600. But in the video Kidd mentions something interesting: They plan to sell the robot also via health insurance companies and employers, which would give -- or subsidize -- the robots to customers and employees.
Would you take Autom home?
Photo and video: Josh Romero & Joe Calamia/IEEE Spectrum
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.