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Brief Q & A with Intuitive Automata’s founder, Dr. Cory Kidd

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Last week I wrote about Intuitive Automata’s robotic weight-loss coach Autom™, and was shortly thereafter surprised to be contacted by the founder of the company, Dr. Cory Kidd. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about his robot.

Before I get started, let me first say that while I’m not personally looking to lose weight, my mother is. She’s tried programs like Weight Watchers and after doing it for a few months, she took a break and ended up quitting. I’m sure we all know at least one person who has struggled with losing weight. When I showed her the video introducing Autom™, and explained some of the history (basically what I had posted before), she seemed curious and even suggested I try to convince Intuitive Automata to send me one for “trial purposes”. As it turns out, it won’t be very long before anyone will get a chance to adopt one into their home.

Plastic Pals: Will Autom™ require an internet connection?
Dr. Cory Kidd: Autom™ benefits from an Internet connection so that a user can upload their data and access it via the web site as well as have the robot updated with data they enter through other devices (e.g. cell phone, Internet, etc.) and new conversation material to use in discussions. However, the robot can be used entirely offline.

Plastic Pals: Will users have to subscribe to a paid monthly program?
Dr. Cory Kidd: Yes, a monthly subscription will be a part of the system and provide some of the benefits above.

Plastic Pals: Does Autom™’s image recognition allow it to visually recognize registered family members, or will you have to log in through the touch screen every time?
Dr. Cory Kidd: I’m not sure yet whether we’ll have this in the first release, but it is in our development plans.

Plastic Pals: Does the software graph personal progress similar to, for example, the Nintendo Wii’s fitness statistics/graphs?
Dr. Cory Kidd: Autom™ does show progress graphs in a number of ways and there is the opportunity to access the data in more detail via the web site.

Plastic Pals: Can users choose from a variety of synthetic voices (such as male or female, young or old, regional accents, etc.)?
Dr. Cory Kidd: Initially she will come with only one voice, but these are options that will be enabled in the future.

Plastic Pals: Is the robot’s speech synthesis capable of emotional intonation?
Dr. Cory Kidd: Somewhat, yes. But we’re limited by the capabilities of current speech technology. You can hear the current voice in the video on our web site at http://www.intuitiveautomata.com/news/IntroducingAutom.html.

Plastic Pals: When a person has met their goals for the day, do you get some celebratory fireworks/applause? (I think that would be a nice touch)
Dr. Cory Kidd: We are still considering a number of ways to do things like this, but you can think about what a personal coach or trainer might do as an analogy.

Plastic Pals: Will Autom™ be ready for winter 2009, or which quarter of 2010?
Dr. Cory Kidd: We’ll do a limited release in Q2 2010 and wider sales around the end of 2010.

Plastic Pals: Pricing – do you have a ballpark figure I might quote you on?
Dr. Cory Kidd: No, we’re not releasing pricing yet, but it will cost less than most people guess. :)

There you have it.  I’d like to thank Dr. Kidd for his time and for generously answering my questions.  If you’re interested in being among the first to get their hands on Autom™ (the first household robot of its kind) when the limited release occurs in Q2 2010, you can sign up on Intuitive Automata’s website to be notified when that happens.

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