Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Crowdsourcing Nutrition in a Snap: Counting Calories in Photos, PlateMate Proves the Wisdom of the (Well-Managed) Crowd

Computations and algorithms cannot yet evaluate a meal, but it turns out that they can build an effective workforce. The PlateMate project proves that a well-managed crowd can play the role of a nutritional expert. (Credit: Image courtesy of Eric Hysen)
From the 5 November 2011 Science Daily article
Americans spend upwards of $40 billion a year on dieting advice and self-help books, but the first step in any healthy eating strategy is basic awareness — what’s on the plate.

If keeping a food diary seems like too much effort, despair not: computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have devised a tool that lets you snap a photo of your meal and let the crowd do the rest.

PlateMate’s calorie estimates have proved, in tests, to be just as accurate as those of trained nutritionists, and more accurate than the user’s own logs. The research was presented at the 24th ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, a leading conference on human-computer interaction.

“We can take things that used to require experts and do them with crowds,” says Jon Noronha ’11, who co-developed PlateMate as an undergraduate at Harvard and now works at Microsoft. “Estimating the nutritional value of a meal is a fairly complex task, from a computational standpoint, but with a structured workflow and some cultural awareness, we’ve expanded what crowdsourcing can achieve.”…

PlateMate works in coordination with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a system originally intended to help improve product listings on Amazon.com. Turkers, as the crowd workers call themselves, receive a few cents for each puzzle-like task they complete.

PlateMate divides nutrition analysis into several iterative tasks, asking groups of Turkers to distinguish between foods in the photo, identify what they are, and estimate quantities. The nutrition totals for the meal are then automatically calculated.

Read the article

November 14, 2011 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , ,

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