Health conscious individuals make use of health tracking programs and apps to keep track of their daily activities and food intake. Although these apps are useful, they are still limited as they depend on the user to enter data, for instance, food consumed for the day, which isn't always accurate.
Researchers are hoping to provide a more accurate solution to this by creating a wearable sensor that can automatically monitor how much the user eats. Edward Sazonov, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Alabama, is working on a device called the Automatic Ingestion Monitor.
The Automatic Ingestion Monitor, or AIM, is a device that is worn around the ear much like a Bluetooth device. It consists of Bluetooth electronics, a jaw motion sensor, and a camera.
According to Live Science, the camera takes images of the user's drinks and food. The jaw motion sensor then monitors jaw movements such as swallowing and chewing and ignores other movements such as when the user is talking. The sensor in the device can determine if the user is chewing or talking, as these two activities have different jaw movements.
The device will then be able to calculate the energy and mass content of the food based on the images taken by the camera and how much the person chews while eating.
"The number of chews is proportional to ingested mass and energy intake."
Right now, the images taken by the Automatic Ingestion Monitor are analyzed by a nutritionist, but Sazonov hopes to automate the process in the future using 3D analysis and a computer. The information provided can then be used to calculate how many calories the user consumes over some time. Sazonov further explained how the device could help health conscious people.
"Weight gain comes from an unbalance of the energy we take in versus the energy we expend. The sensor could provide objective data, helping us better understand patterns of food intake associated with obesity and eating disorders."
The prototype already works, but the Daily Mail reports that Sazonov is looking to improve the device's accuracy. He also aims to make the device more robust and compact.
The Automatic Ingestion Monitor will most likely be a medical device when it is done, but Sazonov hopes that it could also be available to consumers.
[Image via UA News]