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A Machine That Counts Calories Just By Looking At Food

A Machine That Counts Calories Just By Looking At Food
[Image: Grilled cheese via Flickr user Scorpions and Centaurs]

Counting calories is tedious and time-consuming, so various groups are working on automated alternatives. There’s the TellSpec, an Indiegogo sensation that raised $386,392. There’s the SCiO, a “pocket molecular sensor,” an even bigger sensation on Kickstarter. And there are simpler, scale-based ideas like the Situ.


Now here’s another: a prototype from GE Global Research that uses microwaves to assess a food item’s fat and water content and calculate the calories within.

The work is led by biologist Matt Webster, who first analyzed 6,500 foods for their fat and water properties. The device looks for these markers, assuming everything else (protein and carbohydrates, for example) has a fixed calorie value. “The equation takes the fat, water content numbers and assumes values for the rest,” he says in a GE blog post.

You can see Webster demonstrate the device in the video above. It’s still lab equipment for now, though GE has worked up a model of what it might look like. It has a white plastic scale on the bottom, with a top plate cover embedded with electronics and sensors.

In time, we should have very specific calorie counts–not just generic counts of certain foods, but counts of the actual food in front of you. That will hopefully be useful for people looking to lose or watch their weight, and not just make people more obsessive about food.

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