Temple University Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine
An avatar demonstrates walking at a moderate pace on a treadmill--a skill that can help with weight control.
Is your imaginary friend losing weight?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:
That could be a good thing! Because an estimated two-thirds of us real people are overweight.
And while experts say personal weight-loss coaching is helpful, it's pricey! So why not use a virtual coach? An avatar. So proposes community-health expert Melissa Napolitano.
In virtual-reality worlds, people respond positively to the behavior of online personas who resemble themselves.
So Napolitano created four fifteen-minute videos. Each showed a female avatar whose skin color and shape was changeable. In each video, the avatar modeled good weight-loss habits. Like: Exercising. Buying fruit. Duct-taping her mouth shut. Kidding!
Napolitano had female participants in a weight-loss program watch one video per week, for a month. Each changed her avatar to resemble herself. Most had never used virtual reality.
Result? Each woman lost almost four pounds.
Napolitano said that’s normal for weight-loss programs. But if avatars help, they’d be cheaper than traditional programs and could reach more people.
People who love eating imaginary food. Right!
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