Search has come a long way since the earliest algorithms deployed by Google, Lycos, and Inktomi. After conquering basic and complex queries, search engines set their sites on images, video, and audio as frontiers that required new ways of looking at metadata to provide consumers with useful results.
Image recognition has been a focus of developers wanting to add value to the basic ability to capture and identify a picture of a peach or a fast food meal at Wendy’s. The key, as exemplified by companies such as Palo Alto-based Azumio, is to link image recognition to valuable datasets. For Azumio’s Calorie Mama AI-powered platform, the company offers an API available for third-party developers as well as a consumer download which allows users to track nutrition intake.
While Azumio faces competition from Google and Pinterest, a new partnership with Samsung may allow the folks behind Calorie Mama to separate itself from the pack. Samsung has announced a working relationship with Azumio to adds its Calorie Mama technology to Bixby, the South Korean giant’s AI personal assistant platform. Calorie Mama will be baked into the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ enabling users to obtain instant nutritional information about the food they eat.
“Our vision for the Calorie Mama API is to provide the best food image recognition technology to our partners,” Tom Xu, co-founder of Azumio said in a press release, “and to simplify nutrition tracking and food discovery for healthy living to their customers.”
While this announcement is a nice to have for Samsung smart device users, the true value goes far beyond the basic ability to count calories and set nutrition goals. Azumio’s work primarily is focused in areas related to health in such areas as diabetes and sleep disorders. The company’s Argus platform offers activity and diet tracking along with a social network focused on health and fitness. Argus powers its suite of applications such as Instant Heart Rate, Sleep Time, Fitness Buddy and Glucose Buddy. The endgame of connecting food recognition with health-related applications, focusing on those in which diet management is essential, is where the real power lies.
Samsung and Azumio’s combined efforts began in 2013 when the Argus platform was offered in Samsung’s Gear line of devices. Samsung continues to work on its own proprietary health and fitness apps, but those have not been offered to consumers outside of Korea. The value of adding Calorie Mama to Bixby could show great promise. For example, a cook wanting to create a healthy meal could ask Bixby to recommend a substitute for a high-fat ingredient by tapping into its database of image data.
Pinterest—which is preparing for a possible IPO—will undoubtedly rise to the challenge to go beyond its image recognition work with Google (called Lens) which allows users to find recipe pins based on captured pictures. Pinterest recently has hired a new head of computer vision, Chuck Rosenberg, a 14-year Google veteran. Given the primary task of computer vision technology is to analyze images and tie those results to associated data, Pinterest is on an accelerated path in this space. Unlike Samsung, working in a somewhat closed ecosystem, Pinterest will make its application available to all takers.