A Picture That's Worth 1,000 Calories

By Jordan Weinstein

Nov. 16, 2011

platemate diet app

Show me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are: a mock-up of the PlateMate diet smartphone app. (PlateMate)

BOSTON —  With the holiday season upon us, Americans' collective attention turns to food &mdash and for some, the challenge of how to keep all that feasting in check. Two former Harvard University engineering students may have the answer. They've developed a smartphone app they say could make dieting and weight loss as simple as taking a picture.
The PlateMate application uses what’s known as crowdsourcing to give a dieter real-time feedback on the number of calories contained in a plate of food so they can better keep track of what they eat.

According to PlateMate co-creator Jon Noronha, the user simply takes a photo of the food on the plate and the software does the rest.
“The idea was that a user would just look at their plate, snap a photo, send it to the internet and get an answer back. And from their perspective it should be as simple as that,” Noronha said. “The process works through crowdsourcing, which means getting a bunch of people on the internet to do small pieces of the work together.“
Noronha said the idea started as a research project on human-computer interaction at Harvard. After much testing and revision, the software now provides accurate feedback on the calorie content of foods.
But, Noronha said, he and his cohorts are still working on a business model that would make the software affordable — and, of course, profitable.

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