Different types of food not only taste different, but they also make specific sounds (when they are chewed) that allow for them to be distinguished from each other. This is what researchers from the University at Buffalo, led by computer scientist Wenyao Xu, wish to exploit.
Xu is currently working on cataloguing the distinct sounds food makes when it is bitten, ground, chewed, and swallowed. This endeavour is meant to go hand in hand with a high-tech ‘necklace’ called AutoDietary that monitors caloric intake. It is being developed by Xu and a team from Northeastern University, China. The device is worn around the neck, as suggested by its description (necklace), and functions similarly to other wearable devices that are created to track the calories burned by an individual.
AutoDietary resembles much like a choker necklace. It is equipped with a tiny high-fidelity microphone that records food sounds as the person eats. The data is then relayed to a smartphone via Bluetooth to identify the food types that have been consumed.
The experiments that have been done so far to test the effectiveness of AutoDietary show that the device can recognise the foods and drinks consumed correctly 85% of the time.
Given that “each food has its own voice”, the device tracking the “sound bites” might eventually be used for tracking the food intake of patients suffering from diseases that require a close monitoring of the food being consumed such as diabetes, obesity, and even for bowel disorders.
The next step entailed in this study is to enhance the ability of AutoDietary to identify foods — this will be done by working on the algorithms used to distinguish between the foods.
Xu also plans to consider the limitations that come with the necklace. For instance, it will not be able to make the difference between regular corn flakes and frosted ones. Nor can it recognise ingredients of complex foods like soup or chili. Xu might include a biomonitoring device in the package to determine the nutritional value of the food consumed by measuring blood sugar levels, and the likes.