Can the merciless resolve of a robot overlord help you shed pounds? A Hong Kong startup is hoping dieters are willing to pony up for a $960 droid instead of just using an app.
The 15-inch talking droid has an LCD touch screen. Users enter data on calories they consume and the exercise they do each day. The robot responds with customized advice and encouragement, and can download new speech patterns from the Internet so the chatter doesn't get too dull.
Developer Cory Kidd says that many dieters have tried phone- or Web-based apps to get rid of excess weight, but there's a "psychological difference" in using a machine with a head, blinking eyes, and body.
Perhaps Autom's face-tracking function and big blue eyes will make users feel guilty about sneaking that pizza slice between meals. Kidd refers to Autom with female pronouns, and says "she" doesn't scold users.
A study by Kidd compared 45 dieters in the Boston area and monitored their calories and exercise by computer, on paper, or with Autom. The results showed the robot helped people stick to their diets for nearly twice as long as the other tracking methods.
But Autom doesn't come cheap. Count on paying $959.40 ($79.95 a month for a minimum of one year).
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The price is higher than the $500-$600 that Kidd suggested earlier this year. If you order early through the Autom site, however, you'll get 10 percent off the monthly fee and six additional months free.
Manufacturing is slated to begin at the beginning of 2012. If you think Autom might go over like a lead balloon, Kidd has said he has large health and pharmaceutical companies as initial customers.
I still think Autom would stand a better chance if she could speak in a Terminator voice and inflict pain.
Bon appetit, meatsack.
Update, 12:11 p.m. PT: with correct pricing information.