Meal Snap – Calorie Counting Magic
Developer: Daily Burn, Inc.
Runs on: iPhone, Windows Phone 7
It’s rare that I come across an app that has a built-in “wow” factor. Meal Snap – Calorie Counting Magic is such an app. The idea is simple: open the app, snap a picture of what you’re about to eat and the app tells you how many calories you’re about to consume—like magic!
How does it do this? I don’t know, but I do know that the app accesses a database of over 350,000 items to help calculate the number. There’s also some sort of image recognition software or perhaps a person who quickly looks up the item in the database the same way Amazon used to accomplish this feat with their image-snapping price check app. So even if the developer, Daily Burn, Inc., is keeping their magic trick secret I can still talk about how it functions.
The design is simple and elegant. In the bottom-left corner of the screen is a camera to start shooting pictures. The main area of the screen displays thumbnails of your food with the name and the estimated calorie count. The food thumbnails are divided by meal, i.e., breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, etc. and at the top of the screen is the running calorie total for the day. Along the left-hand side of the screen is a thin scrollable date selector. There are a few other bits of functionality I should mention from this main screen, swiping from left to right on an entry displays social sharing options, including Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. This also allows you to delete the entry. Pulling down on the main portion of the screen will also bounce you back to today’s date if you’ve been looking at your past food history.
So the big question is, how well does it work? I only used it for a short period of time, but for me it worked pretty darned good. I started with some Double Stuffed Oreo cookies. The packaging says a serving size of two is 140 calories, I snapped a picture without labeling it and it came back with the estimate of 107-161 calories. Not bad. I grabbed a serving size of dried apricots, which the packaging says is 120 calories. This time I labeled the item as dried apricots and the range was much narrower and it again it was accurate, estimating 80-120 calories. I continued shooting various food items round the house, including some, like nachos, that include a mixture of ingredients piled on top of each other. I measured out all the ingredients with the nachos and the app amazingly projected right in the ballpark of what I had calculated.
A few things I should mention about inputting food items. When I added the description name of the food the results came back within seconds. When I snapped a picture without giving it a name, it took several minutes for the results to return. During this process I also had one instance where the app crashed on me. Like GetCrocking, the crashing doesn’t cause much trouble since the inputting requires such minimal effort.
Another hiccup I came across was that when I tried posting a food item to a past date, it would show up on today’s date. Because you can’t load images from the phone’s library, this app can only be used when you have the meal in front of you. This seems like a simple thing to include and I hope it gets added in future versions.
While this magic trick is pretty neat, I just wish this app would chart the calorie count over time. As it is, the app is really just a reference tool at most since some of the calorie variants can range well over 100 per picture, which can amount to a whole lot for a day’s worth of calories. There’s also no nutritional information. If the app can recognize almonds by analyzing the picture, why not break down the full nutritional composition?
I know, this is really picky for an app that already delivers a pretty good “wow” factor. I’m excited to see what other magic this developer has up its sleeves in future revisions.
Toque Rating: 3.75/5