Counting Calories? Google Aims to Help With Photo Tool

It's difficult to determine the calories in a club sandwich, but there's hope on the horizon. (Photo: primopiano/Shutterstock).

I only Instagram food photos when I’m at a media event or if what I’m eating is particularly good. There's a new project in development that could take that practice to a new level because it counts the calories in a food photo — and I'm betting my photos will have pretty high calorie counts.

Take this one, for instance:

The photo was taken at a media luncheon, where naturally I don't have any control over the food. So, do I really want to know how many calories are in something I can't control? Yes, I do. I track all my calories, and I've found that even on days when I go way over my calorie budget, it's helpful. Counting calories isn't an exact science, but it's a great tool in my lifelong struggle to manage my weight.

Google is working on technology that "aims to be capable of counting the number of calories in every item on a person's plate simply by examining a photo," according to CNET. The artificial intelligence behind the concept is still in development. If Google's research team gets it right, the technology, called Im2Calories, will use "the depth of each pixel in an image" and "sophisticated deep-learning algorithms" to determine how many calories are in the photo. It may not get it exactly right the first time, but it will get more accurate with time as more people use the technology and share results.

Im2Calories is still a work in progress, and there are no specific plans for its use if and when the technology is made available.

But think about how useful this would be for people like me who track calories. They'd be able to take a photo of what they're eating and make an educated decision about whether to eat the whole thing or save some for later — or skip it entirely.

It's difficult to track calories when you're eating at a restaurant, but I can't imagine restaurants will be happy with this development. They may not want people to know how many calories are involved in a particular dish. Maybe, just maybe, it will lead restaurants to cut the calories.