Google Wants to Automate Your Food Diary

Ashwinibiradar via Wikipedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0
Ashwinibiradar via Wikipedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Ashwinibiradar via Wikipedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0

Google has big plans to reinvent the food diary—by making it do most of the work for you. Rather than having to look up the calories for your hamburger, fries, and large soda yourself, their new project, Im2Calories, aims to automatically provide calorie counts. An article in Popular Science explains that the system can gauge “the size of each piece of food, in relation to the plate, as well as any condiments" by comparing the pixels in any picture you provide to its pre-existing database of food images and associated calorie counts.

If you're worried about accuracy, Im2Calories does let users edit the automated results. What's more, the system is "designed to improve itself" through the process of “deep learning.” If, said Google scientist Kevin Murphy, "it only works 30 percent of the time, it's enough that people will start using it, we'll collect data, and it'll get better over time."

Public health experts and epidemiologists, he said, are eager to put Im2Calories to work in order to track trends across populations, as they look for solutions to our country's obesity epidemic.

Murphy envisions other applications for this kind of artificial intelligence as well, including traffic analysis. By examining street scenes, “We don't want to just say there are cars in this intersection," Murphy said. "That's boring. We want to do things like localize cars, count the cars, get attributes of the cars, which way are they facing. Then we can do things like traffic scene analysis, predict where the most likely parking spot is. And since this is all learned from data, the technology is the same, you just change the data.”

[h/t Popular Science]