Crowdsourcing, the act of getting input from a large number of people quickly using social networking tools, is being used frequently for everything from recommendations on what restaurant are good to choosing cover art for a book. Now a new iPhone app, The Eatery (free) wants you to use the power of crowdsourcing to help you forge healthier eating habits.
The idea of The Eatery is simple. Snap a picture of what you're eating, and then slide the picture to the appropriate point on a scale from fat to fit. That gives the app / service an idea of how you personally envision the relative healthiness of what you're eating. You can also designate where you're eating the meal -- at a restaurant or at home. Next, the photo is sent out anonymously to a feed where others using the app can rate the healthiness of your food. Within a day, you receive feedback on just how correct -- or delusional -- you are about how well you eat.
The fun part of the app comes in rating other people's meals. This morning, for instance, I was glancing through the feed looking at meals and found one that was horrendous -- large servings of fried food that could stop your heart a mile away. With a touch, I slid the image to the fat end of the scale, and hopefully the person who posted this will receive a lot of feedback of this type, gently reminding him/her that they need to make better choices when it comes to food.
The company behind The Eatery is Massive Health, a start-up that hopes to fight chronic diseases through analysis of the data gathered through apps like this. Earlier in the year, the company raised US$2.25 million in funding from an impressive group of investors who believe that Massive Health has the right idea -- using smartphones as sensors to gather health information that can be stored in the cloud.
As an example of what Massive Health can do with the data, they used some early results from The Eatery to compile maps of San Francisco and New York showing areas that trend more healthy or unhealthy. What good are the maps? Perhaps they'll show public health officials where in major metropolitan areas they need to focus their attention on encouraging good healthy eating habits.
In the meantime, The Eatery is a fun way to get personal feedback on your own eating habits, anonymously "scold" others for their bad habits, and contribute to a data-gathering project.