Calorie Counting Made Easy

A few years ago I asked my wife if she would like an activity monitor for her birthday, to help automatically track her calories.  To my surprise she answered, “Does it automatically track the calories I eat?” I told her that that was crazy and not possible.  She replied, “Then I don’t want it!”  For her birthday she still got a Fitbit™ activity monitor from me (and loves it), but I got something as well…an idea was born as I began to challenge whether this really was crazy and impossible.

We are developing advanced sensor technology to make estimation of dietary calories in food as simple as the touch of a button.  Check out our video highlighting this technology:

Weight-loss and weight-management comes down to maintaining the right balance of calories consumed and calories burned.  There are more than 100 million American dieters and more than 80% prefer a do-it-yourself approach.  We are accustomed to machines telling us how many calories we burn, from displays on treadmills to the more recent trend towards wearable activity monitors (quickly becoming a billion dollar market).  The activity monitors use sensor technology, like accelerometers and altimeters, to translate your daily body movements into an estimate of your daily calorie burn.  But, monitoring your calories consumed is a different story.

There are plenty of apps that help you track what you eat.  But how well does that burger you ate match with the burger you selected using an app?  Are the serving sizes the same?  Do any of the app database entries accurately reflect what you cook at home?  It takes motivation and time to track calories and that can be a deterrent for people.  Many of those who do track calories tend to under-report their actual food consumption.  Then there are the calorie listings displayed on restaurant menus, which some reports suggest are significantly off.

While tools do exist to make tracking calories easier, true automation of calorie counting the food you actually eat does not yet exist.  The solution may be to use advanced sensor technology to measure the actual meal that you eat, rather than relying on an archived database of values.

My team and I at GE Global Research are developing advanced sensor technology to make estimation of dietary calories in food as simple as the touch of a button.  At the early stages I wrestled with whether it was possible and discovered that calories can be faithfully estimated with just three measurements: weight, fat content and water content.  Our team at GE and our collaborators at Baylor University’s Electrical & Computer Engineering Department have found calorie estimation to be possible in principle, putting together devices to measure calories in different mixtures of oil, water and sugar.  The devices use advanced sensor technology to estimate the fat content, water content and weight of the food in order to automatically calculate dietary calories.  Right now we have only an early prototype, and we are hopeful that further development of this technology will result in a pushbutton device that will provide calorie content of your meal in an instant.

 

CalorieCounter-Webster_500x271
A mock-up of one conceptual design for a future calorie counter device.

 

What does the future look like to me?  I can see an activity monitor, Calorie Counter and a wireless scale all working together to allow you to monitor your calorie balance and the results on the scale; all with minimal effort on your part (except for the exercise).  All of this data will be easily accessible on your tablet or smartphone; maybe difficulty and time will no longer be a deterrent.   I can also see such a device better educating people on what they are eating.  Pop in your meal and you might say, “Wow, I can’t believe that is 1200 calories, maybe I will just eat half.”  My hope is that this technology will eventually become a common part of every household and better equip us to lead healthier lives and combat obesity.

 

 

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43 Comments

  1. lucy haddeman

    I would so do 1 of these in case you need volunteers, I’m a stay at home mom, counting is such a pain but I would do our with this item.

  2. Laura

    I want one – I’ll even be a tester! How about adding the Weight Watchers Point Value? Get Weight Watchers in on it and help with the cost!

  3. Terry

    Make it affordable if you want “this technology will eventually become a common part of every household.” I’ll test it.

  4. Stacey

    Please make this! Every woman plus all kinds of athletes would love this, esp with protein and carb counts! I will buy this the day it comes out

  5. Brenda

    Awesome I want one!!!!

  6. Deana

    I need this!!!

  7. Jennifer N

    Absolutely love this. Will buy it the moment it becomes available!

  8. Rosie LaPier

    When can I get one???

  9. Sandy

    Would love to test this machine

  10. sue Webster

    Great idea. I would love to be a tester for this and as m anxious to get one!!!

  11. M Ralston

    How do I get to be on the product testing list?!?!

  12. Francesca

    Yes as a food coach and healthy living expert, I would love to be on a panel for this…I would totally buy, keep us posted.

  13. Karen foreman

    Amazing, how do you go about investing in the beta? X

  14. Laura miller

    This would be awesome! I shy away from so much because I don’t know what the calories are. I love variety but it’s so hard trying to maintain a certain number when nutritional content is not available. This would be perfect!

  15. Karen H

    This is amazing! I really hope it becomes an affordable reality. I would love to be a beta tester!

  16. Donna Wilkinson

    This would be awesome. . I was wearing the fitbit force until recall and now am trying the Samsung gearfit. I’m trying to lose weight but just not good at counting those calories. This would be great. I think I would feel like the Jetsons. Sign me up.

  17. MommaOcho

    That would be pretty amazing… but can you go a step further and calculate the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbs… and even further in the future how about vitamins & other nutrients?!

  18. Melinda

    Awesome!!!

  19. Michelle

    I want one now!!

  20. Adeva

    I will be purchasing one of these definitely

  21. Katey Hawkins

    When this comes out I need one, not want but NEED!!!!

  22. Michelle

    LOVE this idea- would so help me lose weight and control.my portions

  23. Randal Oulton

    Nutritionists are now recognizing that not all calories are equal owing to how our bodies process fibre, etc, consequently need a version that measures Weight Watchers points plus instead.

  24. Teri

    I would love to test this!!! I really struggle with meals and hate having to measure everything. I have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and trying to keep it under control.

  25. Tammy Luther

    looking for beta testers – would love to participate…

  26. Debbie

    This sounds great. Hurry up with it. Times a waste’n and calories adding up.

  27. ann

    Would love to try this. It’s very tedious to measure and weigh foods.

  28. Nikki

    I need this…cannot wait for it to become a reality!

  29. tabetha

    wow.. This looks awesome. I would love to test this out. It would be nice to continue my diet with some ease

  30. Linda laframboise

    That is a terrific idea , i would love to beta test this one

  31. Sunda Cramer

    We would use this for my entire family. Ever need a beta team of 5 we are here.

  32. Eileen

    I would love to test this. I have struggled with different programs because I cannot get myself to track. Sounds like the perfect answer but I can’t see how it’s possible. Ex: my husband & I both order the exact same meal, same size steak, I have no seasoning or finishing butter, both have salad only he has cheese & croutons & bacon and I just have cucumber & tomato (both salads weighing the same) he has reg Italian dressing and I have fat free light Italian dressing, obviously my plate is quite a bit less with calories, fat & sodium

  33. Janine

    I would LOVE one of these! I would also love to be on your BETA test team!

  34. Jill

    What an awesome idea if works. I also agree with the carb input. I also base my insulin on my carb intake. That aspect would make the lives of many diabetics easier to manage.

  35. Jenny

    Ooohh, I have dreamed of such a device! It would be even more appealing if it tracked macros. I would love to beta test it as well!

  36. Paige Niedringhaus

    I am all for this. I’d also love for it to break down a meal’s macronutrients for the best accuracy – especially for those of us aiming for macronutrient percentages every day. I hope it’s out soon, I’d love to beta test this!

  37. Carol Spicher

    What a great idea! It’s like a glimpse into the future where all of us will look trim and fit due to the ease of knowing what and how much to eat. Scottie…I mean Mattie, beam me up!!!!

  38. Dave S.

    As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, I would love to see this go a step further and have a carbohydrate counter built in. This would make life so much simpler when calculating the amount on insulin that must be given to cover what she eats. I know it may not be possible but there is always hope. Great job on the progress so far!

  39. Seonaigh Paterson

    Sign me up! I’ve often struggled to align calories consumed with those on the apps – brilliant solution!

  40. Sue Fowler

    I LOVE IT. The easier the better. What a way to make you aware of the calories. Sign me up now !

  41. Mo

    This device would change a lot of lives. Sign me up as one of your beta testers.

  42. Michelle

    What a great idea! Can’t get to market fast enough!

  43. theresa peterson

    I wear a fitbit and I would love to test it.