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Though if and when the technology will actually make it to the brand’s smartphones is still unknown.

Mike Pomranz
January 10, 2018

In the world of digital personal assistants, Siri used to pretty much stand alone. When Apple introduced the voice-activated feature in 2011, asking “Hey Siri” was a bit of a revelation. But now, everyone is in the virtual assistant game: Amazon has Alexa; Microsoft has Cortana; Google has, uh, Google. And more and more companies continue to join in: For instance, in the past year, Samsung introduced its own virtual assistant, Bixby. Of course, in such a crowded field, simply offering a distinctly-named assistant isn’t enough to stand out: Your assistant needs features! So at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung decided to demonstrate one the food world has been anticipating for some time: photo-based calorie counting.

Calorie counting is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, and plenty of tech companies have been looking into options to make it easier. We’ve seen devices that try to track glucose levels or that follow the motions of your hands to your mouth, but probably the most promising improvement would allow dieters to simply snap a photo of what their eating and have the calories approximated from there. A Google researcher has been working on this type of technology, and the calorie counting app Snap It already includes an attempt at this feature. Now, according to Engadget, Samsung is showing off its version of a visual calorie-counter as part of its Bixby virtual assistant at the brand’s booth at CES.

“The feature definitely isn't ready for public consumption yet, but it did a surprisingly good job telling a margherita pizza from a plate of salmon sushi from a juicy (if fake) steak,” the tech site reports. “That said, you shouldn't expect Bixby to look at a dinner plate and correctly identify everything on it — at least in its current form, you'll have to point the phone's camera at each individual food item to get the corresponding calorie counts.” Like all visual calorie-counters at this point, Samsung said its version uses “generic data” to determine its calorie numbers – after all, this tech is driven by image recognition software, not some sort of built-in calorimeter – so Bixby’s calorie counting won’t necessarily be any better than the competition. Still, if this feature is added to Bixby, it would mean that photo-based calorie counting would be built-in to every Samsung device.

That said, for now, this “new’ Bixby feature is only intended as a demonstration. Whether it will actually be added to the Samsung virtual assistant – and if so, when – is still unknown.

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