Dean On Campus Blog

A New Year’s Resolution Meets Technology

It’s that time of year.  On January 1, many of us will resolve to change something. There are innumerable lists of the “top ten” resolutions. This one, from is typical.1 The list includes:

1.     Spending more time with family and friends

2.     Getting fit

3.     Losing weight

4.     Quitting smoking

5.     Enjoying life more

6.     Quitting drinking

7.     Getting out of debt

8.     Learning something new

9.     Helping others

10.   Getting organized

I think we would all agree that for many, these are laudable goals. Of all of these resolutions, I am quite sure that losing weight is on many of our lists.

I recently came upon an incredibly neat invention. It’s called “eButton” and it was created by a group of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The eButton is a device that you wear which monitors what you eat and in so doing, calculates your caloric intake. It does so by taking pictures of the foods you eat, recognizing those foods, and estimating the calorie count for each portion consumed. The original article on eButton was published this past year.2 “Using its newly built comprehensive food-shape library, the eButton can now extract food from 2D and 3D images and, using a camera coordinate system, evaluate that food based on shape, color, and size.3





The Pittsburgh team “tested their new design on 17 popular favorites like jelly, broccoli, hamburgers, and peanut butter”.5 They found an average accuracy of over 96%.

And the eButton can do more! It can track your activities…how many times you go to the gym, which restaurants you go to, how much time you spend on the couch and how many miles you jog in a day.

While it may seem like this is definitely “big brother watching you” there is no doubt that there will be many more technological approaches to today’s common issues.

If you have any thoughts on a New Year’s resolution or on the computerized approach to weight loss, leave a comment on this blog, or better yet…please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.





2. Hsin-Chen Chen, Wenyan Jia, Yaofeng Yue, Zhaoxin Li, Yung-Nien Sun, John D Fernstrom, Mingui Sun. Model-based measurement of food portion size for image-based dietary assessment using 3D/2D registration. Measurement Science and Technology, 2013; 24 (10): 105701 DOI: 10.1088/0957-0233/24/10/105701




6 Responses to A New Year’s Resolution Meets Technology

  1. Dear Richard: My version of this device is called the iShuffle®-it is a sneaker net device and involves me shuffling off to the gym for a workout! On a more serious note, I am impressed by just how much time we spend online and suspect the best way to use computers for weightloss is to turn them off! I realize that is hypocritical (as I write and respond to blogs) etc…but I do think most computer technology tends to lead to sedentary behaviours which outweighs the potential health education benefit they have. Exceptions to this may be the exercise tracking software which allows one to monitor exercise. Thanks for the posting and Happy New Year, Stephen

    • reznickr says:

      Thanks Stephen,

      You make an excellent point. I might add that there are pedagogical issues with overuse of computers, as our housestaff are spending too much time in front of computers and not enough time in front of patients.

  2. Amanda RW says:

    I’ll suggest checking out as a review site for Medical Apps, both for professional and patient use. The reviews are not always the best, and the apps are not always available in Canada, although they are at least independent.

  3. Terry Carscadden says:

    This is fascinating! I also tell my overweight patients that it takes 15 min for the brain to tell you that you are full. One can put a lot of food away in 15 min!
    I enjoy your articles!
    Terry Carscadden Meds ’64

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