Imagine loading up a plate of food and sticking it into a device loaded with microwave sensors that look for fat and water molecules in order to determine an estimated calorie count. This isn't a radical concept plucked from the set of Star Trek. It's an actual existing prototype from GE.
We briefly covered the prospective device a few days back, but now we've unearthed a video that helps to explain it further and the potential for a genuine consumer release somewhere down the line.
Matt Webster, a senior scientist at GE's labs, has developed a new technology that can determine the amount of calories in food. He came up with the idea after his wife didn't want a fitness tracker as a present because it couldn't automatically track the calories she consumed. Weber has a career based on diagnostics and biomedical research, so he decided to build a device that his wife would both want and use.
He combed through the US Department of Agriculture's nutritional information database of 6,500 foods and found that an equation could estimate calories after accounting measurements for weight, fat content, and water content: “I eliminated fat and accounted for water to figure out what the average calorie density was," he said. "The equation takes the fat, water content numbers and assumes values for the rest."
Webster and a team of scientists at GE have since developed advanced microwave sensors that can look for fat and water molecules in food. The sensors emit low-energy microwaves that cause water and fat to behave differently. The way the water and fat interact with microwaves allows the team to determine fat and water content, thus enabling them to come up with an average calorie density.
The GE team is now testing this new technology with Baylor University’s Department Electrical and Computer Engineering. They have come up with a system that examines simple mixtures of oil, water, and sugar. They have also built a prototype and are working toward a device that could work with a smartphone app or wristband: “I am working on my wife’s dream present," Webster added.
The image atop is mock up from GE. It's a push-button, calorie-counting device that GE is currently envisioning for its prototype. You can watch the video above for more information, or check out the gallery below for more pictures.