Real-Time Food Scanners Have Arrived

The SCiO scanner can almost instantly tell you the nutritional and chemical makeup of the food you're about to enjoy. . (Photo: SCiO)

We've all picked up a piece of food at a roadside stand or cafeteria and attempted to eyeball the nutritional value. More often than not, we're left in the dark. No longer. It's 2016, and while hoverboards and flying cars have proved disappointing, we can take solace in the arrival of one cool new gadget: the real-time food scanner.

Like something out of "Star Trek," the SCiO scanner from Consumer Physics uses near-infrared spectroscopy (a measurement of how light that is emitted, absorbed or scattered by materials) to determine the chemical makeup of food and drink. After about 10 seconds, a nutritional breakdown will appear on an accompanying app called DietSensor. From there, you can determine how what you're about to consume might fit into a pre-determined diet or wellness plan.

Right now, the SCiO scanner will only work on homogenous foods with the same texture. For example, it could tell you what's in that chicken you're about to eat or the bread you just bought, but not the full chemical makeup of a sandwich. In addition, it will also scan barcodes of products to record nutritional labels and factor in those results.

“Smartphones give us instant answers to questions like where to have dinner, what movie to see, and how to get from point A to point B, but when it comes to learning about what we interact with on a daily basis, we’re left in the dark,” Dror Sharon, CEO of Consumer Physics, told Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat. “We designed SCiO to empower explorers everywhere with new knowledge and to encourage them to join our mission of mapping the physical world.”

While DietSensor is one of the first apps to work with the SCiO, developers around the world are already hard at work on additional applications. Besides food, the scanner also has other uses — such as analyzing the moisture levels in plants or, one day, perhaps even your blood alcohol content.

“We want to open this up to a developer community and start selling this to people who want to explore the world,” Sharon added. “They can keep their own databases. The more we measure, the more we learn. The more everybody learns.”

The SCiO scanner is available for pre-order for $249. The DietSensor app is free to download, but $10/month thereafter. Both products are expected to launch in May.