Leave My Cake Out Of This: Google Developing Artificial Intelligence To Count The Calories In Food Photos

June 2, 2015


ERROR, ERROR. *app crashes, phone catches fire*

Google's research lab is hard at work developing an artificial intelligence capable of calculating the calories in food photos in an effort to simplify the process of calorie tracking. Or to constantly remind me I rarely eat a meal under 2,500 calories. *jiggling belly* You're my best friend.

It's called Im2Calories, and in one example, the system looked at an image, and counted two eggs, two pancakes and three strips of bacon. Since those aren't exactly universal units of measurement, the system gauged the size of each piece of food, in relation to the plate, as well as any condiments. And Im2Calories doesn't require carefully captured high-res images. Any standard Instagram-quality shot should do.

And the point of Im2Calories isn't to shame users with its shocking calculations of their daily food intake. [Google research scientist Kevin] Murphy wants to simply the process of keeping a food diary, identifying foods so you don't have to manually plug them into an app, and taking the guesswork out of nagging variables such as serving sizes. "We semi-automate," Murphy said during his presentation, noting that you can correct the software using dropdowns, if it confuses fried eggs for poached, or misreads something entirely. "If 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," said Murphy.

Hey, whatever works. But do you know what would be even cooler than an artificial intelligence that can track the calories in food photos? An artificial intelligence that can let you TASTE the food in food photos. Now that's the kind of future I want to be a part of. But calorie tracking? I'll just lay in bed and hope for a meteor strike already.

Thanks to Melli, who agrees some things are best left unknown.

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