Beyond the Hill

SUNY Buffalo professor creates device measuring the caloric intake of users

Devyn Passaretti | Head Illustrator

A professor at SUNY Buffalo is hoping to cash in on the latest trend of wearable health devices on the market by creating a device that measures the caloric intake of users.

AutoDietary was created primarily by Wenyao Xu, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The necklace-like device is different from a Fitbit because it does not measure the number of calories burned, but rather the number of calories taken in.

Xu expects the first version of AutoDietary to hit the market by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. Xu said his team is working to assure that the price of the device will be under $100.

“We are confident that the sale volume will be similar to that of devices such as the Fitbit,” Xu said. “A healthy life means energy balance. Right now, the Fitbit can measure the energy expenditure, but there is no wearable device to measure energy intake. This absence in the market was the motivation for AutoDietary.”

The device was developed for medical use for people with weight problems or diabetes, but Xu said he hopes to expand it to the general marketplace.

AutoDietary was designed with a complementary smartphone app that has a library of different foods. When an individual chews and swallows their food it has a distinct sound tracked by the microphone in the device. Xu said the device is able to find the closest matching sound in the library.

“Using Bluetooth, the app receives a signal from the necklace. It can analyze food intake and send reminders to the user,” Xu said. “For example, if the user sets in the app that they only want to eat 2,000 calories for that day, the app can send a gentle reminder when they are nearing their calorie limit for the day.”

Xu and his students rely on volunteers at SUNY Buffalo to come in and eat different foods so that they can add them to their library, he said. Right now the library only has about 25 foods in it, but Xu said the team’s goal for the first version of the product is to include at least 150 common foods.

The current challenges in the development of the device are battery life and accuracy, Xu said.

AutoDietary is meant to be wearable and cannot be too bulky, so the team must keep the battery quite small, which means a diminished battery life, Xu said.

In addition, Xu added that the microphone the team is currently using has trouble identifying between some liquids and softer foods, so before the device is made available to the public, the team wants to improve its accuracy through a more sophisticated algorithm.

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