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Google wants to count the calories in your food photos

Do you really want to know how many calories are in that?
By Deena Shanker
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In case you’ve been feeling that Google isn’t already deeply enough embedded into your daily life, the company has unveiled a way that might allow you to use it with every meal you consume.

Last week, at the Rework Deep Learning Summit, Google research scientist Kevin Murphy presented Im2Calories, an artificial intelligence tool Google is researching that can count the calories in your food with just an image, Popular Science reports. Murphy showed how the system could take an image of two eggs, two pancakes, and three pieces of bacon, use the plate size to determine the size of the pieces of food, and use that to count calories.

Im2Calories works through “deep learning,” meaning that it draws on vast banks of data to make calculations and improves each time it’s used, without having to rely on researchers to constantly update it.

The technology could help people who are trying to keep food diaries, by allowing them to sidestep the need to input individual components of their food intake into a separate app. “Ok fine, maybe we get the calories off by 20 percent. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to average over a week or a month or a year,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the Popular Science piece.

The product isn’t available yet, and there’s no assurance it ever will be (we’ve contacted Google, which declined to comment on its plans), but it’s likely just the beginning in terms of how Google will look to utilize this kind of technology. Another potential application he points to: analyzing traffic scenes to locate the most likely place to find a parking spot.

Featured photograph by Clemens v. Vogelsang and shared under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. It has been cropped.

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