As the obesity rate continues to increase persistently, there is an urgent need to develop an effective weight loss management strategy. Nowadays, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies coupled with the rapid spread of messaging platforms and mobile technology with easier access to internet technology offers professional dietitians an opportunity to provide extensive monitoring support to their clients through a chatbot with artificial empathy. This study aimed to design a chatbot with artificial empathic motivational support for weight loss called “SlimMe” and investigate how people react to a diet bot. The SlimMe infrastructure was built using Dialogflow as the natural language processing (NLP) platform and LINE mobile messenger as the messaging platform. We proposed a text-based emotion analysis to simulate artificial empathy responses to recognize the user's emotion. A preliminary evaluation was performed to investigate the early-stage user experience after a 7-day simulation trial. The result revealed that having an artificially empathic diet bot for weight loss management is a fun and exciting experience. The use of emoticons, stickers, and GIF images makes the chatbot response more interactive. Moreover, the motivational support and persuasive messaging features enable the bot to express more empathic and engaging responses to the user. In total, there were 1,007 bot responses from 892 user input messages. Of these, 67.38% (601/1,007) of the chatbot-generated responses were accurate to a relevant user request, 21.19% (189/1,007) inaccurate responses to a relevant request, and 10.31% (92/1,007) accurate responses to an irrelevant request. Only 1.12% (10/1,007) of the chatbot does not answer. We present the design of an artificially empathic diet bot as a friendly assistant to help users estimate their calorie intake and calories burned in a more interactive and engaging way. To our knowledge, this is the first chatbot designed with artificial empathy features, and it looks very promising in promoting long-term weight management. More user interactions and further data training and validation enhancement will improve the bot's in-built knowledge base and emotional intelligence base.
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