Researchers in the UK are working on chatbots - AI designed to converse with humans - that will steer people toward healthier eating habits. Unlike current apps that simply offer healthy recipes or assist with counting calories and steps, this technology will make use of the psychology behind unhealthy eating habits and work toward helping people make lifestyle changes.
Instead, chatbots are being taught to understand psychology so we don’t have to, allowing them to pre-empt our unhealthy food choices, push us to eat less calorific stuff and even pre-empt the sort of situations where we’re likely to scoff loads of fatty grub.
Dr. Anne Hsu, a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, presented her team's project at the recent ReWork AI Assistant Summit in London, where she explained the two-step approach:
- "The first is a diary-style dialogue with the bot, where users tell it what they’re eating at different times so that it can detect trends and offer advice."
- "The second is “in-the-moment” support that provides reminders of how a person successfully tackled difficult situations in the past. There are motivational imagery exercises too, that can help shift foodies’ thinking away from unhealthy temptations."
This new kind of chatbot is a timely development, as the U.S. faces an obesity epidemic, and the UK experiences similar weight-related issues:
Health problems related to being overweight cost the UK around $4.2 billion a year and individuals keen to bring about improvements need to stay motivated to manage weight loss effectively.