Looking for an easier way to count calories? This device could help.


(Photo courtesy of GE)

Matt Webster just wanted to give his wife a nice birthday present.

Webster's wife is health-conscious; she plans her meals and writes down the number of calories she consumes each day. So he figured she might want an activity monitor — one of those devices that tracks your stats each day.

His wife, however, told him she'd only want an activity monitor if it helped her count the calories she was going to consume, Webster says. The thing is, you can buy a gadget to count your steps, record how many calories you've burned, or monitor your morning run; but a counter like the one Webster's wife was describing is a tough ask.

"I was like, 'that's not the answer to my question,'" Webster said. "You're asking me for something that's impossible and doesn't exist."

It doesn't exist yet. But Webster, a senior scientist with General Electric, is now developing it. We know — what a great gift!


(Photo courtesy of GE)

Here's how it works: the device that Webster and his team are working on analyzes fat content, water content and weight. With that data, Webster says, it can reasonably estimate the amount of calories someone will be consuming.

Engineers aren't using solid foods yet. They're still working with mixtures, but the goal is to develop a product that can scan a sandwich and tell someone exactly what he or she is eating.

Here's a video GE Research uploaded on YouTube, breaking down the specifics:

The MIT Technology Review also has additional details.

The device isn't likely to be available for years. "It'll take a while before she actually gets it," Webster said. "Hopefully she'll still want it."

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.

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