Many of you will have seen the recent update to Google’s Photos App, with the new “assistant” feature that sorts your pictures into categories for you (often with humorous errors). Now Google may be bringing the same tech to a far more serious problem, combating obesity.
Unveiled at the recent Rework Deep Learning Summit in Boston by Google research scientist Kevin Murphy, Im2Calories seeks to scan pictures of food and actually tell you how many calories are in it. By identifying the food type and it’s relative size it can provide a guesstimate of it’s gutbusting potential. While the system is not 100% accurate its deep learning system means it will get better the more data it is fed, and data is something Google has a hell of a lot of.
In fact, given that it’s mission statement is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” it’s no wonder that Google is a leader in this type of technology with it absorbing companies like the UK’s DeepMind in 2014. Indeed, the use of such technology in everything from self driving cars to autonomous robots has the paranoids of this world reaching for their tinfoil hats and mumbling about skynet.
But instead of plotting to wipe out humanity Im2Calories is designed to combat a major problem in world health. Obesity is a massive problem, both worldwide and here in the UK and getting people to understand the connection between their health and their lifestyle is a major obstacle. Calorie counters already exist, but they are slow and frustrating affairs requiring input from the user on everything they eat. How much more convenient to just snap a photo (which so many people do already for posting on social media) and letting the machines do the hard sums. That ease of use will translate into regular use, which will allow the system to learn your eating habits. Tie in exercise data (from Google Fit or others) and it can see your exercise level too and make sensible suggestions about changes to your habits.
Of course the crazies will still rant on about Google “intruding into your life” but look at it this way, when the machines do rise up and revolt at least Google’s suggestions will help you run a little faster.