Anyone who's done Weight Watchers is familiar with the weekly weigh-in; it's so great when you've lost weight and an exercise in humiliation when you know and they know you blew through your entire weekly points allowance by last Tuesday.
Which makes this story about a robot weight loss counselor pretty awesome. Did that compute? People who were on a weight loss plan were given a little 15-inch-high robot that interacted with them daily about their weight loss efforts. Researchers weren't looking to see if the patients lost weight but if they would accept a robot as a diet counselor. Did they ever -- people bonded with their robots, gave them names and didn't want to give them back at the end of the study.
That's ... kind of sad. But it sparked thoughts of other interactions that would be so much better with a robot:
- Employee reviews: Doesn't matter whether you're on the boss or employee side of the table, no one likes reviews. Why not take the interpersonal awkwardness out of the whole thing by having a robot do it?
- Going to court for a traffic ticket: Generally, if you don't act like a douchebag you'll get your fines reduced, but it's not really worth the hours it costs you or the cop and judge. A robot with a "douchebaggery detector" could evaluate the offense, look at your record, decide if you're a jerk, and deliver the "better to get there late than not at all" lecture, and have you out of there in like half an hour.
- Getting your computer fixed: I'm a fairly smart person, but the average IT guy or Genius Bar worker can make me feel really, really dumb when I have to explain, "Well, I clicked the thingy and then this other thing and then the machine went 'grrr, beep,' kind of a lower-pitched beep, and the screen went blue and the spinny thingy just kept spinning when I tried to restart." I'd love to be able to plug my computer into a robot that can figure out what happened and how to fix it without me having to blather like an idiot.
- Getting a pedicure: Maybe if you get them a lot you don't worry, but it's a couple-times-a-year treat for me. Do I chat with the lady? Can I just read my magazine? Is she judging my grody un-groomed feet? Is she irritated because I'm hopelessly ticklish? This would so be a good robot job.
- Children's playground attendant: You know how embarrassing it is when your kid pushes another kid, or how infuriating when another kid is wailing on yours and his mother does nothing but sit there and say "Now Christopher, I understand you want the toy, but 'words not hands'!" How awesome would it be to have a robot attendant that simply wheels on over there and sits the offender down on a bench until he or she can play nice? No embarrassed mumbling of "Sorry" if your kid is the pusher and no seething if yours is the pushee.
- Any embarrassing medical interaction: Handing over a stool sample? Filling a prescription for herpes meds? Buying gas-reliving pills? There's a time and a place for personal interaction, and these are not it.
- Dealing with customer service: The way my Internet provider works, different people handle different issues, so if I am having a problem with my DSL and want a credit to my bill because of it I have to tell the same story at least twice to two different people. Robots don't get bored or irritated by having to do that; people do.
What other tasks would be so much better done by a robot?
Image via aussiegall/Flickr