GE is developing a calorie counting machine

Many average consumers might struggle to count and balance calories in their day-to-day diet. After all, the busy working world makes it hard to find time to tarry over the caloric cost of a sandwich snagged from a food truck during a quick midday lunch or the fresh produce piled in the shopping cart on the way home after a long day. That is perhaps one of the benefits of attending cooking school online, i.e., the opportunity to build a stronger understanding of the composition and nutritional value of the food we eat. GE is trying to simplify this process for experienced chefs and pedestrian cooks alike in its creation of a calorie counting machine that relies on microwaves. Biologist Matt Webster has been working on the device for several years, attempting to fulfill a birthday gift request from his wife. Though the project is still in the prototype phase, it could soon give dieters a fast and easy way to count calories with every meal.

The challenge of counting calories
Webster’s work looks to fill an important gap in the growing trend of health-related devices. Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, have the ability to estimate the amount of calories a person burns throughout the day, and there are many applications that can provide the average calorie count of staple meals. However, to date there is no device that can provide a specific calorie count for food that is outside the box. That is to say, it is rather challenging to accurately measure the total calories found in a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs made from scratch, especially since individual portion size varies.

The GE prototype
Webster’s GE prototype uses advanced microwave sensors to measure the weight, fat content and water content of food. This allows the device to calculate the number of calories in a plate of food. Webster’s team at GE Global Research is currently testing the prototype using mixtures of water, oil and sugar. The endgame is a household device that gives anyone the ability to quickly measure their daily caloric intake. However, this device does not address the quality of different ingredients. While the device will be able to measure the calorie count of foods as different as chocolate cupcakes and fresh kale salad, the calorie count will in no way reflect the nutrition provided by the food.

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