Researchers' technology could make a healthy diet a point and shoot affair
Who they are
As a general rule, keeping track of what we eat, how much we eat and how healthy that intake is for us are among the keys to being successfully health and diet conscious. But activities like maintaining a food diary or reading labels on packages in the grocery store take work. And what do you do about assessing the plate in front of you at a restaurant or banquet?
A group of Purdue researchers thinks you could point your smartphone’s camera at it.
What they're doing
The Technology Assisted Dietary Assessment system, or TADA, and a related mobile app use imaging software and a deep collection of data on foods not only to count calories but also to provide information such as the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates. The goal is an easy-to-use tool to help people with health challenges like diabetes and obesity make healthier choices, says Carol Boushey, who led the development team as a professor in Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences.
Electrical and computer engineering Professor Edward Delp’s lab oversaw development of the imaging software that automatically identifies food in the images, while professor David Ebert's lab worked on estimating the amount or volume of the food. Meanwhile, the lab of Martin Okos, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, developed the food density component. Density is needed to convert the food volume to gram weight so the app can determine nutritional value.
How they got there
Prof. Boushey, who had a history of using technology ranging from disposable cameras to personal digital assistants to help people improve their diets, got the idea for a smartphone application and assembled Delp and the rest of the research team. Funding for the project came from the National Institutes of Health.
As the technology became a reality, the researchers disclosed it through the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) and its Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). This is a requirement for intellectual property developed with University resources that also serves to protect Purdue’s and the developers’ rights to benefit from it. In addition, OTC is working to identify partners who might license TADA and bring it to market. Boushey and Delp hope to find a partner among the potential licensees who will help fund continued development of the technology as well.
OTC negotiates license agreements on behalf of the University and its researchers and also handles trademarks and patenting, as is occurring with the TADA application and the technology behind it. Generally, net proceeds from licensing will be distributed two-thirds to the University and one-third to the University personnel who created the intellectual property. In most instances, half the net proceeds distributed to the University go to the department or administrative unit from which the development originated and half to the Trask Innovation Fund to further the commercial potential of Purdue-developed technologies.
"Recognize your limitations. Seek experts to help with areas outside your skill set. For me, personally, issues such as commercialization, promotional materials, business plans, are outside my skill set," Boushey says.
"Just because you plan to commercialize it, don’t spend the million dollars before you get it. Commercializing it doesn’t mean it’s going to make you wealthy," Delp says