The tech giant's app, Im2Calories, claims to calculate the nutrition in your food Instagram posts. But will it be accurate enough to replace a daily food diary?
We all have that friend on social media. You know, the serial food pic poster whose kitchen and photography skills are questionable at best, but is nonetheless convinced she’s the next Chrissy Teigen. Hey, maybe you yourself are guilty. Well, thanks to Google, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing a lot more where that came from in your Instagram feed. (Psst: 20 Foodie Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following.)
Im2Calories, which Google unveiled this week at a tech conference in Boston, is a super-cool artificial intelligence software that uses algorithms to estimate the number of calories in your Instagram food photos, Popular Science reports.
The idea behind the project, explained Google research scientist Kevin Murphy, is to simplify the process of keeping a food diary, eliminating the need to manually plug your foods and serving sizes into an app. The system gauges the size of pieces of food in relation to the plate to generate a calories estimate, and the user will have the option to approve or disapprove and make corrections if the software misreads your pics. The only catch? The technology isn’t totally accurate. (Here's How to Make Food Journaling Work for You.)
“Ok fine, maybe we get the calories off by 20 percent. It doesn't matter,” Murphy said. “We're going to average over a week or a month or a year. And now we can start to potentially join information from multiple people and start to do population level statistics. I have colleagues in epidemiology and public health, and they really want this stuff.”
So you shouldn’t rely on this tech as the end all be all for your diet, but the broader impact of the technology is pretty impressive. And, according to Murphy, if they can pull this off using this data for food, the possibilities are endless. (For example, the same technology could be used for traffic scene analysis to predict where the most likely parking spot is, he explained.)
Google has filed a patent application for Im2Calories, but there's no word yet on when it will be available. In the meantime, it’ll make for great table conversation while you snap brunch pics this weekend!