Automatic Ingestion Monitor

Calories consumed minus calories burned. If the result is greater than zero, you will probably gain weight. If the result is less than zero, then you’ll probably shed pounds. Simple enough, but difficult to track. Fitness bands and other devices can do a pretty good job of measuring the calories burned part (though some are more accurate than others). The calories consumed part, however, typically requires the user to log what he or she eats, including the quantity. (Just how much is “one serving” anyway?) This data is unreliable and users often forget to log everything.

A researcher at the University of Alabama thinks he has the solution: the Automated Ingestion Monitor (AIM). This device sits on your ear, much like a Bluetooth headset. Much like the little angel (or devil) that would sit on a cartoon character’s shoulder, the AIM sits ready to watch what you eat. A sensor detects when you are chewing (as opposed to talking or other jaw movements) and a camera watches for food headed toward your mouth. The system estimates the amount of food that you take in, and the energy content that it contains. It then uses a Bluetooth connection to relay this information to your smartphone.

The National Institute of Health has awarded a $1.8 million five-year grant for formal trials to test its effectiveness. The funds will also help improve on the current 3D-printed prototype, making it smaller and more efficient. If it is proven to work well, the next challenge will be to find out if patients want an electronic snitch spying on them when they are snacking.