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WEARABLE NECKLACES

A new wearable promises to cut calories by ‘hearing’ what you eat

By Ian Kar

Can a necklace help you eat healthier?

Wenyao Xu, a computer scientist at the University of Buffalo, thinks it can. Xu and researchers from Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, are working on a wearable called AutoDietary. A tiny microphone in the choker necklace monitors the sound your mouth makes while you’re chewing and swallowing food. It then sends the audio to your phone via Bluetooth to figure out what exactly you’re eating and how many calories you’re taking in.

Xu is developing a library of the different sounds we make while we eat, so that the AutoDietary can more accurately recognize our food.

University of Buffalo
A prototype version of the AutoDietary necklace.

In early tests, the AudioDietary’s performance is promising. According to an IEEE Sensors Journal study published in February, the necklace identified what the 12 test subjects were eating and drinking 85% of the time.

Typically, apps that try to help you live healthier have you manually input what you eat for each meal, an annoying and time-consuming task. Automating it could speed up this process and make it more efficient. Xu sees it as particularly useful for those with diabetes, obesity and other dietary conditions, to help them monitor and manage what they’re eating, he told the Universtiy of Buffalo.

That being said, there are some drawbacks. As the University of Buffalo reports, the necklace can’t differentiate between certain foods, such as regular corn flakes and the frosted covered variety, despite a difference in calorific content between the two. Though given that chokers are making something of a comeback right now, getting people to wear the device might not be so tricky.