Google has some big plans for its artificial intelligence (AI) programme. The company has been working on improving its image recognition algorithms to be able to recognise objects in images. The Google Photos app already lets people search text and identifies images containing those objects, even if their file names or captions don't indicate the objects in images. The latest development in that area is the company's ability to recognise food and identify the number of calories in them.
At the Rework Deep Learning Summit in Boston, USA, Google unveiled its Im2Calories project, according to a report in Popular Science. The goal behind the project is to be able to identify food from still photos and to be able to tell how many calories the meal contains. This is a very specific use of image recognition technology that even Wolfram Alpha is trying to perfect.
This may sound simple given that we have facial recognition technology and that Google can automatically categories photos that contain certain objects into albums. But food brings with it a layer of complexity that makes it hard to calculate the number of calories. We're talking about portions. The size of each serving alters the calorie count and so does the size of individual food items such as eggs. Google's Im2Calories project appears to have found solutions to these problems.
The report claims that Im2Calories scanned an image to detect three strips of bacon, two eggs and two pancakes. The software could also calculate the size of each food item and alter the calorie count in the meal accordingly. The best part is that the software can work with Instagram-quality photos. You don't need a high-resolution DSLR camera to get this to work.
The project is in the works and isn't 100 percent accurate yet. That isn't a surprise given the complexity of the task at hand but will be very useful if it works as advertised when released. For instance one could imagine it being used by diet and fitness apps that currently require you to manually input food and portions that you have consumed. This is a time consuming process and one that people easily forget to do. However if these apps can scan photos and tell you the calorie count of any meal, then they suddenly become a lot more effective.
In a world where some countries have around 20 percent of the population overweight, such an app could go a long way in helping people develop healthy eating habits. Google has applied for a patent for this technology and as of now there are no details about its release to the general public.