Meet the DietSensor, a forthcoming $249 app-powered gadget that can actually scan the molecules that make up your food and tell you how many calories are in that muffin, or that hunk of cheese, or that bowl of cereal.
As a one-time calorie counter (I've since lapsed, hardcore), it could solve a big problem for would-be dieters when it launches later this year. And it appears to work - at least it worked at the demo table at CES.
The DietSensor was invented after company founders Astrid and Rémy Bonnasse found out their daughter had Type-1 diabetes. They built the DietScanner to help monitor her carbohydrate intake.
The app is powered by SCiO, a handheld molecular scanner developed by Consumer Physics, that was the beneficiary of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign back in early 2014. Here's how Business Insider's Leslie Baehr described SCiO's technology back then:
SCiO detects the molecular "signature" of your food and then sends the details to your smartphone through its Bluetooth connection. SCiO's database translates that signature into nutritional content.
The technology behind these devices can be complex, and it's not entirely clear how the DietSensor works. It's also not the only device of its kind: GE demoed a prototype of a calorie scanner in 2014, and another device that claims it can count what you eat (rather than what's on your plate) made waves at last year's CES.
Here's a video explaining how you might use the DietSensor:
In a demo at CES 2016, the way it works is a little tedious: You hold the scanner up to the food. Then, the DietSensor app on your phone prompts you to take a picture of the food, so it can judge the volume.
Then, it reports back with its highly-educated estimate on the nutritional value of the food you just scanned.
The good news is that the app is constantly updating with new food choices. The bad news is that those updates will carry a monthly fee if you want to make sure the database is kept up to date.
Still, it's a very cool idea. Better living through molecular scanning! Welcome to the future.