When you attend the Consumer Electronics Show, you’re going to get asked one question more than any other: “Seen anything cool?” I usually fumble a bit and then come up with a few products. But if anyone had asked me at this year’s show if I’d seen anything weird, I wouldn’t have had to search for an answer. I saw Autom.
Autom was a contestant in Last Gadget Standing, a CES tradition which I helped judge this year. She’s a personal weight loss coach who happens to be a robot. That’s her above at the competition in conversation with her creator, Cory Kidd, a veteran of MIT’s fabled Media Lab.
Like any good weight loss coach, Autom says gives you feedback (in 3-to-5 minute daily chats) and monitors your progress. She just happens to speak in a synthesized voice, and to track relevant data using a display built into her tummy.
Last Gadget Standing’s co-hosts, Jon Heim and Gary Dell’Abate of The Howard Stern Show, compared Autom to Rosie the Robot, the Jetsons’ automated housekeeper. There is a certain resemblance. She reminded me even more, however, of Mego’s 2-XL, an educational toy I desperately wanted when I was a kid.
Autom has been in the works for years–here’s a video of a prototype from 2007–and was once supposed to ship in 2010. She’s now scheduled to make her debut early this year for $199.99 plus a $19.99-per-month service fee, although her maker, Intuitive Automata, says it may take six months to fulfill new orders.
The event’s audience didn’t pick Autom as the last gadget standing in its applause-o-meter voting. That honor went to light-field camera Lytro. It was an excellent choice–but I did wonder what sort of victory speech Autom might have given if she’d won.