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Google hopes to count the calories in your food photos

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 2, 2015
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Be careful about snapping pictures of your obscenely tasty meals -- one day, your phone might judge you for them. Google recently took the wraps off Im2Calories, a research project that uses deep learning algorithms to count the calories in food photos. The software spots the individual items on your plate and creates a final tally based on the calorie info available for those dishes. If it doesn't properly guess what you're eating, you can correct it yourself and improve the system over time. Ideally, Google will also draw from the collective wisdom of foodies to create a truly smart dietary tool -- enough experience and it could give you a solid estimate of how much energy you'll have to burn off at the gym.

This isn't going to lead to a practical product in the short term. Google only just filed for a patent on Im2Calories' underlying technology and has no immediate release plans, so you can post dessert photos to Instagram with relatively little guilt. Eventually, though, it could be a staple feature of health apps that help you balance your food habits with your activity levels. And the potential doesn't stop there, either. While food is the "killer app," the image recognition code could also apply to traffic prediction and anything else where a series of photos can provide a wealth of data.

[Image credit: Ana Arevalo/AFP/Getty Images]

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