New wearable device measures what you consume, not what you burn off.

AutoDietary Necklace
Credit: Courtesy of University at Buffalo

Wearable technology typically sits on wrists and faces. Think: smart watches, smart glasses, VR goggles and fitness bands. Now researchers are developing a smart necklace that can "hear" what you're eating, which may help people track and control the foods they ingest. The goal is to identify caloric intake and not just burnoff.

Wenyao Xu, a computer scientist at the University at Buffalo, is working with researchers at Northeastern University in China to develop the necklace, which is worn like an ordinary choker. Inside the device is a small microphone, the size of a zipper pull, which records biting, grinding and swallowing. The collected data is then sent via Bluetooth to a proprietary application called AutoDietary, which has been custom built for this project. It stories a library of sounds we make when eating.

To test the hardware-software package, researchers gave 12 subjects—aged 13 to 49—a glass of water and a variety of different foods to eat: apples, carrots, potato chips, cookies, peanuts and walnuts. AutoDietary correctly identified the food and drink 85 percent of the time.

But the system is far from perfect. Some food groups, like soups and chili, are still too complex for AutoDietary. And there is no way yet to distinguish between regular corn flakes and, say, frosted flakes. To address these needs, the researchers are building a biomonitoring device that would work with AutoDietary. Somehow it will recognize blood sugar levels, among other things, to determine the nutritional value of whatever you're eating. Ultimately, the system will deliver an evaluation of what you consumed, with recommendations for healthier eating, on your smart phone.

To hear the "voices" of various foods being eaten, go to the University at Buffalo's site and scroll down to "test subjects chewing." Warning: The audio is exceptionally boring.

[h/t to IEEE and the Hindu]