Google have a policy of constantly improving the applications and services available for users all over the world. Some of these improvements are announced to fanfare, others are far more subtle improvements. Many of these improvements are to Google’s cloud based systems and are rolled out to large numbers of users silently and without any involvement. One of these hidden features is how the Google Search Engine is very knowledgeable when it comes to foodstuffs: we can ask Google how many calories there are in a given food and it knows the answer. Better yet, we can ask Google about most nutrients. Not only will Google respond with the answer but it can ask us for specifics, included brands. For example, ask Google how much protein in 89g of chicken and Google asks us what kind of chicken and is aware of McDonald’s Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken. This is an example of the Google Now assistant understanding the context of questions we ask.
This feature is potentially very useful for people watching what they eat, especially when eating out. It may drive up the number of picky eaters checking with Google before ordering at a restaurant – although the Search engine cannot yet be used as a comparison service for different meals, it can certainly provide the information. This could potentially bring it into competition with diet monitoring applications and services, much as Google Fit is in competition with exercise tracking applications.
However, it appears that Google have plans to enhance the food tracking services. In June last year, Google showed off a new application called Im2Calories, which is backed by Google’s artificial intelligent services. The application goes further than understanding the contents of individual ingredients but is designed to tell the user how many calories are in a given meal by studying photographs of the food. At the moment, the application has not been released to the public and we’ve no word of when or if Im2Calories will be available, but there is massive potential here: not only could Google’s application be used to provide information on the nutrients in particular types of food, but could also be used to provide allergy advice. When Google demonstrated Im2Calories last year, the application was only right around thirty percent of the time but as is the nature of AI systems, it is constantly learning.