A Hong Kong company thinks it has just the right gadget to help dieters and weight watchers shed the flab.
Cory Kidd, CEO and founder of Intuitive Automata, came up with Autom, a robot that will look dieters in the eye and tell them what they need to hear.
Autom first hits the US market in December for US$400 (HK$3,120) to US$500.
Kidd, who holds a PhD in human-robot interaction from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, said Autom is a more personalized way of using technology to slim down.
A prototype of Autom that speaks in Cantonese and Mandarin also has been developed but Kidd said there is no timetable on when it can be marketed.
"Weight loss is notoriously difficult to do. We had 83 million people in the US trying to diet last year. But on average they last about three weeks. They have a hard time sticking with it," Kidd said.
"The most effective way is to have a personal trainer that helps you, but that is not affordable. A trainer costs US$65 an hour. When you compare that to the price of the robot, this might be a much better deal."
Users can have daily conversations with the 38-centimeter-tall robot, which will crunch calories and provide feedback and encouragement on their weight- loss progress.
Switch Autom on and it's ready to go.
"Hello, I'm Autom! Press one of the buttons below to talk to me," it says in a robotic female voice with an American accent. "I'm ready to get started. Let's keep working together."
Before inventing Autom, Kidd had been studying robot- human interaction and comparing it with human interaction with computers. He decided robots are the way to go.
"A physical robot engages more quickly, apart from the novelty of course. The interesting part is that engagement, even after the novelty wears off, continues to last," he said.
Kidd said Autom's human qualities, while primitive, were an important factor in keeping 15 dieters motivated during a trial in the Boston area.