When you hold a small sphere called the One X Sensor in the palm of your hand for 20 seconds, it tells you how healthy your lifestyle is. By beaming a specific wavelength of color into your skin–and then monitoring the signals reflected back–the gadget measures your levels of carotenoids, a type of antioxidant.
One type of carotenoid is carotene, the pigment that makes carrots and apricots orange; another type is found in dark leafy greens. When you eat produce, carotenoids end up in your tissues. Measuring carotenoids through your skin, it turns out, it a good way to objectively measure whether you’re eating enough produce.
Carotenoid levels can also dip because of lack of sleep or exercise, too much stress or time in the sun, or a few too many drinks. It’s not surprising, then, that having more carotenoids is correlated with a lower risk of disease–it’s a sign of a healthy lifestyle.
Like a Fitbit, the new gadget is meant to help you collect data about your habits and nudge you to do better by giving you performance scores. “A low to average score can be a wake up call for someone to change his lifestyle habits, realizing that his lifestyle is not as healthy as he might think,” says Anthony Weil, founder of One X, the startup making the device.
The gadget syncs with other devices that measure activity or sleep so you can begin to see how specific habits affect carotenoid levels; it also pulls in local data about pollution and UV radiation. The system also uses computer vision and machine learning to try and recognize the ingredients in a meal if you take a picture and assess the nutrition. Then, after a meal, the company claims you can scan your palm and see how well you’re absorbing nutrients. Over time, it sends you customized diet recommendations (Co.Exist has not gotten to test how accurate its recognition or suggestions seem.) At a later point, the startup hopes to start using data to begin selling people customized supplements.
Though carotenoid scanners have been used by public health researchers in the past, the new device hits a price point for consumers. And though most people probably already know whether they’re eating enough fruits and vegetables, the startup argues that if you see the physical impact on your body–impacts that used to be subtle–you might be motivated to change when you weren’t in the past.
“Tracking your One X score allows an empowering feedback loop because the effect of better lifestyle and nutrition can be measured immediately with significant impact in a few days,” says Weil.