Meet Autom, the Robot That Helps You Lose Weight

Can a weight-loss coach robot help you stay in shape?

2 min read
Meet Autom, the Robot That Helps You Lose Weight
Photo: Intuitive Automata

autom robot weight loss coach

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 

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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