By: Rafael Tonon
How tech-embedded eyewear is trying to help us to really see what we eat
It has been five years already since Google launched its first project on smart glasses: for better or worse, Google glasses have started to change the way we deal with technology, and the idea of wearable devices has become more and more acceptable after all. Since the California-based company has faced many difficulties (from design to privacy policies), others have been trying to create their own visual devices – and literally look for the future of this trend.
Smart glasses have finally hit the food universe as well, with visual devices that can not only help us go on a good diet but also to warn its wearers about the real ingredients in a recipe. But now wearable wireless technology – specifically the smart glasses with built-in video cameras – is set to revolutionize the way we relate to our food.
It’s all in your face
While many companies are embracing the fitness movement, by creating glasses with plenty of sensors (including gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers) to track the calories you can burn after a sumptuous feast, (such as Level, in the photo above) Microsoft was granted a patent for a system that goes beyond putting a fitness tracker on your face and which uses augmented reality headwear to send users nutritional advice based on their personal dietary needs.
“As seen on TV”, more specifically on HBO comedy series Silicon Valley, the reality glasses can track when and what you eat – and, because of this, is getting known as “Shazam for Food” by geeks and early-adopters all around (a reference to the famous music app). The technology also includes warnings, such as advice to avoid those late night fridge raids, for exemple. The smart glasses system will guide you through decisions around food preparation and shopping.
It is a wearable system for imposing dietary self-control: just as the good angel in your head to stop you from ordering a caloric dessert. According to the patent information, it can also monitor what the wearer eats including calorie content and suggest some ingredientes and recipes based not only on nutritional needs, but product and restaurant reviews as well.
Titled “Wearable food nutrition feedback system”, Microsoft’s patent details all the technology that can monitor sight, sound, location, temperature, and motion. With high-accuracy sensors, the glasses can identify food in front of the wearer and analyze its nutritional content, while eyeball tracking sensors help the glasses understand which items the wearer is considering. And based on the wearer’s needs, recomendations and even restrictions, it can predict what – and what not – you should eat.
Another positive aspect is the fact that it can use geolocation tracking to understand when a wearer is in a specific restaurant, and suggest which menu items to order or avoid. Even if the menu description says the opposite with a marketing “gluten-free” label – in case for those who are allergic, for example, it’s a safe way to order or not an item. Like other smart glasses, Microsoft’s device can also track users’ caloric and nutritional intake over time.
A personal coach
Its competition, Apple, recently patented a system of RFID tags to track the nutrition of restaurant orders and meals at home. As it is said in the company’s AppStore, “Lark personal coach helps you lose weight and become your best self. Your Lark coach keeps an eye on your exercise, sleep, and diet, and texts you motivation and advice in the moment, when it’s most helpful”. Apple describes Lark as a personalized nutrition coaching.
“Eat the same foods that you like instead of prepackaged foods. Your Lark coach will help you tweak your diet to make it easier for you”, the description follows.
But instead of glasses, users can see all these information on the small screen of their Apple Watches, not in front of their eyes.
Food hygiene audits
But more than “only” track the user’s nutrition each day and make food suggestions based on nutritional needs or flavor likes, the smart glasses are now being used to radically change the way food hygiene audits and training is carried out. Once the technology is properly rolled out, it will allow hygiene experts and auditors from one location to remotely observe what is happening on a food production line on the other side of the world, according to Senior Vice President of Global Food Division at NSF International Inc.
The technology offers real-time information with remote access and is able to directly interact with the person wearing the glasses to resquest other views and auctions. This can be game changing in the war against food fraud, that has been estimated to cost the food industry $30 to 40 billion per year globally.If the smart glasses technology can really automate the process, it will provide much-needed transparency about the nutritional content of our meals. Not only regarding the products we buy from grocery stores near home or the dishes we order in the restaurants we like to go. But also in the industry, where experts can check everything needed even before the product hit the shelves, guaranteeing our health. These technologies, as specialists predict, can give us a wider vision of what we eat. And, for that, we just need to put the glasses on.