When your personal trainer is a chatbot

Can a chatbot help you lose weight? Researchers are trying to find out.

Chatbot in workout clothes in front of a group of four people.
FysBot helps you train by sending messages on social media.

You will not get in better shape if a robot lifts weights for you. But maybe you can lose weight if a chatbot sends you encouraging messages?

FysBot is a virtual friend and personal trainer, who encourages you to train and make healthy decisions. It is a chatbot that sends you reminders and messages on social media – just like a real person.

Do we need FysBot?

Currently there are about two billion people in the world who are overweight or obese. The number has tripled since 1975.

We know that training is good for our health and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Even so, we do not manage to train enough.

“People want personalized help with training. That’s why we thought that a chatbot that send you messages on social media might be a good solution,” says Ph.D. student Dillys Larbi at the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research.

Larbi is examining how a chatbot on social media can motivate people to increase their level of physical activity. She interviews those who might use such a chatbot about their wishes and needs.

FysBot is your trainer and friend

“When we tested a prototype, people said that they wanted a digital friend who was integrated with their sports watches,” says Kerstin Denecke, professor at Bern University of Applied Sciences.

A friend can be a cheerleader but can also be honest and give you constructive criticism. When your friend knows how many steps you’ve taken that day, they can also be concrete. “Congrats on walking 5000 steps today! Think you can manage 6000 tomorrow?”

“FysBot is also a kind of psychologist. It tries to change your behavior with researched-based techniques,” says Elia Gabarron, associate professor at Østfold University College and the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research. FysBot uses psychological techniques such as goal setting, feedback, social support, and social reward.

The goal is to increase physical activity

“For now we are focusing on physical activity but this kind of chatbot could also help to reduce substance abuse. It would be neat to see FysBot being used all over the world,” says Larbi.