New app knows the nutrition of your food just by scanning it

One of my goals — not resolutions, mind you — for 2016 is to keep a better handle on the amount of calories I eat every day.

It seems pretty simple in theory: Just weigh or measure out your food and input it into one of the umpteen food trackers available. The problem comes in when I don’t exactly measure the food right or there’s just not any nutritional information available.

Am I just out of luck?

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Not anymore: French startup DietSensor launched the SCiO at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show. The device is a small, Bluetooth-enabled molecular sensor that determines the chemical composition of foods and drinks by near-infrared spectroscopy, or the analysis of how the molecules that make up food interact with light. It mostly works on basic food items like potatoes, cheese and bread, but the accompanying app allows for manual entry of more complex meals.

Creator Remy Bonnasse and his wife Astrid developed the idea in 2014 after their daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a disease that requires them to monitor her insulin levels and carb intake at each meal. It made doing anything social almost impossible.

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“Right now we’re the only ones using [the SCiO] for this kind of food application,” Bonnasse told MTV News of the app. It currently has a database of 600,000 foods and drinks from 50 countries in 19 languages.

Here’s how it works: Each scan sends an infrared beam onto the surface of the food and the interaction with the beam of light sends a unique fingerprint which is compared to items in the database. The nutrition information is then sent back to the app.

It can definitely be used for diet control purposes, but Bonnasse said the real market is for people with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, like his daughter.

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“When you have heart disease or type 2 diabetes you have to balance carbs, fat and protein, so the advice can give them goals they should follow and tell them what to cut back or suggest foods that will balance out their meal,” Bonnasse said.

The $249 SCiO — along with the $10-a-month app scheduled for release later this year — is the first consumer-level technology using infrared spectroscopy.

“For our daughter and that 100 million we wanted a technology that could log food with a click of a button and a scan that takes 2 seconds, not 20-30 clicks per food.”


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