The Calorie Counters will have their way. First, they took the fun out of fast food, and now they've found a way to use our own (i)phones against us. Today, DailyBurn released a new app called MealSnap with one very fancy and terrifying feature: it can identify and track the calories in everything you eat from a simple picture. DailyBurn, the weight-loss and exercise website/social network, already has apps that follow your workouts and eating habits in a variety of ways, including but not limited to the ridiculous and probably humiliating military-themed Push-Up Wars.
The technology in use in this new app looks similar to the famous sudoku-solving, billboard-translating Google Goggles, but with a less gimmicky and potentially depressing result. Did you really want to know how many calories are in that Behemoth? You still won't be able to get lettuce instead of a bun (or, thankfully, an MGD64) at Father's Office, but at least now you'll know just how much you've indulged.
Turn the page to find out how well MealSnap actually works...The app itself is actually a lot friendlier than it sounds. It has a straightforward and pleasant interface, with a daily total calorie count displayed up top and everything you've eaten listed below. When you enter a photograph it asks you to tag it with a meal, and it barely judges you at all if you happen to drink your lunch. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to calculate the calories in stranger objects (an unwrapped caramel apple pop, for example), but it consistently identifies food correctly and produces totally realistic calorie numbers, an impressive piece of wizardry. We half-heartedly suspect that there's a roomful of people in some far-off land identifying and then looking up nutrition facts for the pictures we take, but however it happens, it's pretty cool.
For those of you who already keep meticulous track of every calorie that goes into your body, there's a calendar that runs along the side of the screen so you can follow your eating habits over weeks and months, and the convenient Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare integration makes a great way to pat yourself on the back and brag about your self-restraint to the pudgy, ignorant masses. The app is a rather hefty $2.99, but if you're serious about monitoring your diet, or if you want to be, it may very well be worth it. And if you do find that it's depressing to see how many calories you're ingesting every day, it should be pretty easy to trick the app (and then your friends) into thinking you're being a whole lot healthier than you actually are. Stealth bacon, anyone?