Food tracking is one of the biggest challenges for Fitbit, Jawbone and the rest of the fitness tracker fraternity. Counting calories by choosing from a food database or taking pictures is just too arduous a process.
A team of researchers from the Northeastern University in China are developing a solution to simplify the process of measuring calorie intake and they’ve come up with AutoDietary.
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Here’s how it works: the wearable smart necklace packs a high fidelity microphone that records the sounds of what you’re eating and as the food is swallowed. That data is then sent to your smartphone over Bluetooth.
Those recordings are matched against a catalogue of sounds, put together by scientist Wenyao Xu, that foods make when we bite, grind or swallow them.
Xu and the research team tested the reliability of the setup by asking 12 subjects, male and female, aged 13 to 49, to chomp down six different types of food and to drink some water. That included apples, carrots, potato chips, cookies, peanuts and walnuts. The AutoDietary system was able to correctly identify the food 85 percent of the time.
While the necklace has the obvious benefits of keeping an eye on how much you eat, Xu believes it could also one day help diabetes sufferers, prevent bowel disorders and similar ailments by keeping a closer eye on what’s being eaten.
It’s still very much in the development stages and Xu says that he needs to continue to refine algorithms and increase the library of sounds. It’s also currently not capable of identifying foods like soup. Xu feels this could be solved by adding an additional bio-monitoring device that could determine the food item via blood sugar levels and similar measurements.
As innovative as it sounds, the AutoDietary system looks like a complex one to pull off and we’d be pretty surprised if this is around people’s neck anytime in the near future. For now, calorie counting remains a wearable tech Holy Grail.