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Robot helps dieters shed pounds

March 28, 2008 3:58:56 PM PDT
When it comes to losing weight, most people can use a helping hand, but imagine if you had a weight-loss coach around to help you 24-7?Imagine if that coach was a robot.

The newest weight-loss tool has been created: a robot diet coach.

"The robot is designed to always be supportive and helpful. It's not going to chastise me if I haven't done well," said Cory Kidd, MIT inventor and founder and CEO of Intuitive Automata, Inc.

Kidd spent 18 months developing the robot that plugs into an outlet and recognizes who its talking to through its four motors and cameras. He also started a company to mass produce the robot, hoping to sell them for a few hundred dollars a piece.

"Something that has eyes, for example, and seems to be looking at you while it's talking to you draws a person in more quickly," Kidd said.

Amna Carreiro, who has used the diet robot, said, "it's very personable." Carreiro lost nine pounds in eight weeks using her robot. She named it Maya.

The robot asks dieters to input data about what they ate and how much they exercised, then stores the data and also provides feedback on how to meet weight loss goals "I was looking forward to just going home at the end of the day, just recording information," Carreiro said.

"It feels very caring as opposed to just going to the computer and logging it to any kind of chart," she said.

During initial studies, robot users stayed on their weight-loss program nearly twice as long as dieters who used traditional computer programs or hand-written logs, proof that a little high-tech help can go a long way.

For more information:

Background: According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and being overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, close behind tobacco use. An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the obesity epidemic. But the problem isn't just in this country. According to the World Health Organization, globally there are more than one billion overweight adults, and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese.

Heath risks: Obesity poses a major risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and certain forms of cancer. Obesity is also a major contributor for disability. The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life.

A new, high-tech buddy: Now, one researcher says he has a tool that can help many people lose weight. Cory Kidd, Ph.D., an MIT researcher and the Founder/CEO of Intuitive Automata, Inc., has developed a robot that functions as a diet coach. "The robot is designed to always be supportive and helpful. It's not going to chastise me if I haven't done well," says Kidd. The robot works by talking to you about how much you're eating and exercising. It helps people stick to their diets by verbally asking dieters to input data about what they ate on a touch screen. The robot then provides encouragement and advice. The robots are also designed to adapt the way they respond to individual users. For example, when the robot asks if a user would like to see how his or her level of exercise for a day fits within long-term goals, the user can respond by tapping a button that says "No" or "OK" or a more enthusiastic, "Let's Do It." Four motors and cameras in the robot's eyes track who it's talking to. The robot is powered simply by being plugged into an outlet.

Success stories: During initial studies, researchers found the robot users stayed on their weight loss program nearly twice as long as dieters who used traditional computer programs or handwritten logs to attempt weight loss. One robot-user, Amna Carreiro, lost nine pounds in eight weeks using her robot that she named Maya. "It feels like it is caring as opposed to just going to a computer and logging in to any kind of chart. It's very personable. You feel like you are cared for," says Carreiro.

Future production: Kidd has now started a company to mass produce the robots. He hopes to sell them for a few hundred dollars apiece in the near future.

For more information: http://www.intuitiveautomata.com

Contact:

Cory Kidd, Ph.D., Founder and CEO
Intuitive Automata, Inc.
Boston, MA
(775) 317-8094
info@intuitiveautomata.com

 

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