"If you're trying to lose weight, there are a lot of cell phone applications out there but you still have to measure or somehow guesstimate how much you're eating," said the University of Washington's doctoral student Sep Makhsous, who's working on the project. The NutriRay 3D's working prototype scans your food and offers up a summary of nutritional facts, not limited to just calories. It already works with 9,000 different types of food, with estimated nutritional content figures that are apparently between 87.5 and 91 percent accurate during tests. "It creates a 3D map based on where the dots align, and then you can put them all together to get the actual volume of the food," said Makhsous. Users will still have to input minor differences (is that a coke or a diet coke?), but like existing diet tracking apps, you'll be able to store recipes for food recipes you regularly use. Maybe to go inside your smart lunchbox?
The project was originally developed for nutritional epidemiologists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, but the Indiegogo campaign aims to transform it into a consumer product for everyday use. (If you're Instagramming your salad anyhow, scanning shouldn't prove too much of a leap.) The startup wants to bring its system to iOS, Android and even Windows Phone. According to their funding page, reducing the cost of production also remains a challenge. At the moment, a $199 donation gets you a scanner -- one that the team aims to miniaturize so that it plugs into your smartphone's power socket. If the project reaches its $50,000 goal, early backers might get their own calorie-scanning peripheral by September.